The environmental status of EU marine waters is assessed on the basis of eleven qualitative descriptors of good environmental status. Each of the descriptors is accompanied by a number of related criteria and indicators, i.e. by tangible parameters that can be measured and compared. This principle can be elucidated using the example of Descriptor 10 on “Marine litter”. Generally the EU Member States need to consider all of the descriptors and identify those that are appropriate to describing good environmental status in their marine waters. Descriptors 1, 3, 4 and 6 describe the state of marine ecosystems and the species they host while the remaining descriptors cover pressures on the marine environment.
1: Biological diversity 2: Non-indigenous species 3: Populations of commercially exploited fish and shellfish 4: Food webs 5: Eutrophication
6: Sea floor 7: Hydrographical conditions 8: Contaminants 9: Contaminants in food 10: Marine litter 11: Introduction of energy
Descriptor 10: “Properties and quantities of marine litter do not cause harm to the coastal and marine environment.” Criterion 1: Characteristics of litter in the marine and coastal environment
|Indikator 1:||Trends in the amount of litter washed ashore and/or deposited on coastlines (litter concentration). The analysis includes litter composition, spatial distribution and litter source. Under the OSPAR Convention (Oslo-Paris Convention of 22 September 1992), marine litter collections are carried out to this end on Northeast Atlantic coasts and the litter is recorded under standardized categories.|
|Indicator 2:||Trends in the amount of litter deposited on the sea floor, floating in the water column or floating at the surface. The analysis includes litter composition, spatial distribution and litter source. Amongst other techniques, survey flights are used to establish such trends.|
|Indicator 3:||Trends in the amount, distribution and composition of micro-particles (in particular plastics).|
|Indicator 1:||Trends in the amount and composition of litter ingested by marine animals (stomach analysis). To this end, dead or stranded birds found on Northeast Atlantic coasts are examined, such as fulmars (pelagic seabirds). Dead harbour seals, dolphins, porpoises and grey seals are also analysed.|