Assessing the State of Good Environmental Status


The approach provides a methodology to undertake a rapid assessment of the current state of the European Marine Strategy Framework Directive's GES (Good Environmental Status) Descriptors, using the information available from disparate sources/assessments. Using a risk assessment framework the degree of departure from GES is scored for each descriptor based on the current situation and best evidence in the region giving a measure of the level of effort required to achieve GES for each descriptor.

The framework allows the state of policy objectives to be assessed at any regional scale and the methodology can be easily adapted to other policy drivers and their targets/objectives. In combination with other tools, the high risk outcomes presented in this work can be used to help prioritise management measures.


Results give a current status of regional seas in terms of the level of departure of each descriptor from GES (example Table 1).  The outcomes provide insights to facilitate the identification of regional management priorities to support achievement of GES by 2020. ODEMM’s approach is thus complementary to the work undertaken by individual Member States on the initial assessment of the state of their individual waters that was completed in 2012.

Table 1 Risk of departure from GES for MSFD descriptors for the four European regional seas using the ODEMM GES risk assessment (Breen et al., 2012)

Using this Resource

For each of the descriptors assessed under this approach, a more detailed definition of each high-level objective was developed, against which to assess the likelihood of departure (i.e. the risk of failing to achieve the objective).

Having clarified the definition associated with achievement of each descriptor, criteria describing high, moderate and low levels of departure from GES were then characterised, corresponding with different levels of risk of failing to achieve the objective. Start the Prezi below, clicking the arrows, to see more about the criteria for the assessment of state. Use your mouse to pan around and zoom in further for details.

Expert knowledge and the best available background scientific knowledge on status and/trends in environmental components are used with the criteria to assign an assessment of risk of departure of descriptors from GES. Confidence assessment criteria were also developed based on the quality of information available, interpretability of information and level of agreement between experts carrying out the assessment.

Skills needed: Expert and regional knowledge of ecological components and their current status

Further Information: Breen et al., 2012 ; Also described in Chapter 2 of ODEMM's final deliverable (Robinson et al. (2014) - ODEMM Report.pdf)

Developers: Patricia Breen (Cefas), Leonie Robinson (ULIV); Tony Knights (ULIV); Stuart Rogers (Cefas); Frank Thomsen (Cefas)

Tool contacts: Patricia Breen ( or Leonie Robinson (