On the 17 June 2008, the European Council adopted the Marine Strategy Framework Directive, whose aims are stated as ensuring healthy European marine waters by 2020. The Directive came into force on 7 July 2008. Under the Directive, member states will have to develop marine strategies for their European waters, including a detailed assessment of the state of the environment, a definition of ‘good environmental status’ at regional level by 2012, and environmental targets and monitoring programmes (targets will have to be achieved by 2016).

Member states will have to bring into force the laws, regulations and administrative provisions necessary to comply with this Directive by 15 July 2010 at the latest. The draft Marine Bill appears to be the most obvious vehicle for implementing the Directive although it does not currently make any reference to this Directive.