Marine mammals and good environmental status: science, policy and society; challenges and opportunities

Maria Begona Santos*, Graham John Pierce

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


The Marine Strategy Framework Directive has become the key instrument for marine conservation in European seas. We review its implementation, focusing on cetacean biodiversity, using the examples of Spain and the Regional Seas Convention, OSPAR. The MSFD has been widely criticised for legal vagueness, lack of coordination, uncertainty about funding, and poor governance; its future role within EU Integrated Maritime Policy remains unclear. Nevertheless, the first stages of the process have run broadly to schedule: current status, environmental objectives and indicators have been described and the design of monitoring programmes is in progress, drawing on experience with other environmental legislation. The MSFD is now entering its critical phase, with lack of funding for monitoring, limited scope for management interventions, and uncertainty about how conservation objectives will be reconciled with the needs of other marine and maritime sectors, being among the main concerns. Clarity in governance, about the roles of the EU, Member States, Regional Seas Conventions and stakeholders, is needed to ensure success. However, even if (as seems likely) good environmental status cannot be achieved by 2020, significant steps will have been taken to place environmental sustainability centre-stage in the development of Integrated Maritime Policy for EU seas.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)13-41
Number of pages29
Issue number1
Early online date5 Feb 2015
Publication statusPublished - May 2015

Bibliographical note

We wish to thank the Spanish cetacean experts whose knowledge and opinions have been invaluable during all steps of implementation of the MSFD for this functional group in Spain and to all the colleagues at the IEO who have given shape to the MSFD process in Spain. We wish also to thank three anonymous referees for their helpful comments. GJP thanks the University of Aveiro and Caixa Geral de Depo´sitos (Portugal) for financial support.


  • MSFD
  • cetaceans
  • GES
  • Spain
  • bottle-nosed dolphins
  • porpoises phocoena-phocoena
  • Eastern North-Atlantic
  • population genetic-structure
  • delphinus-delphis
  • harbor porpoises
  • tursiops-truncatus
  • protected areas
  • Canary-Islands
  • habitat preferences


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