Skip to main content


Implementation of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD)

Arbeitsschritte zur Umsetzung der MSRL
© Thünen-Institut/Wolfgang Nikolaus Probst
Die Grafik zeigt die Arbeitsschritte des Thünen-Instituts zur Umsetzung der Meeresstrategierahmenrichtlinie (MSRL).

As holistic approach, the Marine Strategy Framework Directive poses a challenge to the scientific community: How to describe the state of the marine environment with 11 descriptors? We develop indicators, techniques in risk assessments, and integrated assessment frameworks.

Background and Objective

The Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) obligates EU Member States to achieve a Good Environmental Status (GES) of their marine waters by 2020. Within the MSFD, eleven descriptors of the environmental status are evaluated by indicators, which currently are not fully operational. We work on the operationalisation of fish-related indicators and will develop integrated assessment systems to combine the outcome of single indicators into the evaluation of the corresponding descriptor status. The first step in the implementation of the MSFD is to review the temporal and spatial availability of data for the identification and validation of potential indicators. During this stage, the main objective is the identification and validation of indicator species and ecosystem components. After the identification of indicators, the influences of human pressures on these indicators will be quantified by risk assessments using varying temporal and spatial scales. Finally, the risk assessments will be used to establish methods for integrated assessment of the marine ecosystems which will help policy makers to decide on alternative management scenarios.

Target Group

  • National and international political authorities
  • Scientific community (ICES)


We collaborate in national and international committees (BLANO, ICES, EU, OSPAR), provide advice to the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL) and conduct scientific studies (dynamic population models, data analysis, development of pressure & state indicators).

Data and Methods

  • DCF data
  • TI-Surveydata
  • VMS-Data (provided by BLE)

Our Research Questions

  • What is the good environmental status (GES)?
  • By which indicators can GES be defined?
  • How can the current environmental status be measured and assessed?
  • How can single assessments of environmental status be combined and integrated?

Preliminary Results

  • Development of indicators on size distribution within a stock, fishing impacts on benthic communities and state of fish communities
  • Analysis of historic conditions of fish communities
  • Methods for the evaluation of indicators

Links and Downloads

Involved external Thünen-Partners

  • Bundesamt für Seeschifffahrt und Hydrographie
    (Hamburg, Deutschland)
  • Bundesamt für Naturschutz BfN
    (Bonn/Vilm, Deutschland)
  • Umweltbundesamt (UBA)
    (Dessau-Roßlau, Deutschland)


4.2010 - 12.2027

More Information

Project status: ongoing


  1. 0

    Probst WN (2023) An approach to assess exploited fish stocks compliant to the requirements of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) including criterion D3C3. Ecol Indic 146:109899, DOI:10.1016/j.ecolind.2023.109899

  2. 1

    Probst WN, Lynam CP, Bluemel JK, Clarke M (2023) Assessing change in the occurrence of rare species using the binomial distribution. Ecol Indic 156:111084, DOI:10.1016/j.ecolind.2023.111084

  3. 2

    Bobowski BTC, Power A-M, Pierce GJ, Moreno A, Iriondo A, Valeiras J, Sokolova IM, Oesterwind D (2023) Cephalopods, a gap in the European Marine Strategy Framework Directive and their future integration. Mar Biol 170(3):26, DOI:10.1007/s00227-022-04148-2

  4. 3

    Armelloni EN, Bergström L, Canal G, Delaunay D, Foucher E, Galatchi M, Goncalves P, Grossmann J, Hekim Z, Sand Jacobsen N, Junquera S, Kreutle A, Ligas A, Maneiro I, Mirny Z, Müller MS, Probst WN, Raicevich S, Rowe O, Saks L, et al (2022) The second workshop on lists of commercial fish and shellfish species for reporting of MSFD D3 (WKD3LISTS2). Copenhagen: ICES, iii, 131 p, ICES Sci Rep 4(80), DOI:10.17895/

  5. 4

    Probst WN, Stelzenmüller V, Rambo H, Moriarty M, Greenstreet SPR (2021) Identifying core areas for mobile species in space and time: A case study of the demersal fish community in the North Sea. Biol Conserv 254:108946, DOI:10.1016/j.biocon.2020.108946

  6. 5

    Probst WN, Kempf A, Taylor MH, Martinez I, Miller D (2021) Six steps to produce stock assessments for the Marine Strategy Framework Directive compliant with Descriptor 3. ICES J Mar Sci 78(4):1229-1240, DOI:10.1093/icesjms/fsaa244

  7. 6

    Belgrano A, Lynam CP, Probst WN, Thompson M, Doyle A, Brind'Amour A, Beauchard O, Piet GJ, Schratzberger M, Jacob U, Eerkes-Medrano D, Somerfield PJ, Laffargue P, Fu C, Ellingsen K, Garcia C, Couce E, Clarke M, Artigas F, Salter I, et al (2021) Working Group on Biodiversity Science (WGBIODIV). Copenhagen: ICES, 57 p, ICES Sci Rep 3(79), DOI:10.17895/

  8. 7

    Rindorf A, Arronte JC, Baldo F, Börjesson P, Calderwood J, Charisiadou S, Burgos MC, Eerkes-Medrano D, Goncalves P, Kavanagh A, Kempf J, Lefkaditou E, Lynam CP, Machado I, Mildenberger TK, Moura T, Probst WN, Reid D, Salvany L, Sys K, et al (2021) Workshop on the production of abundance estimates for sensitive species (WKABSENS). Copenhagen: ICES, 128 p, ICES Sci Rep 3(96), DOI:10.17895/

  9. 8

    Clarke M, Alves A, Arceredillo AT, Guijarro B, Perales Raya C, Konrad C, Delaunay D, Voces D, Miller D, Glyki E, Balestri E, Foucher E, Nixon E, Boer Fde, Kelly F, Velasco F, Tiganov G, Carruel G, Wennhage H, Probst WN, et al (2020) Workshop to review and progress the reported lists of EU MSFD Descriptor (WKD3Lists). Copenhagen: ICES, 128 p, ICES Sci Rep 2(82), DOI:10.17895/

  10. 9

    Froese R, Winker H, Coro G, Demirel N, Tsikliras AC, Dimarchopoulou D, Scarcella G, Probst WN, Dureuil M, Pauly D (2018) A new approach for estimating stock status from length frequency data. ICES J Mar Sci 75(6):2004-2015, DOI:10.1093/icesjms/fsy078

  11. 10

    Probst WN, Rau A, Oesterwind D (2016) A proposal for restructuring descriptor 3 of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD). Mar Policy 74:128-135, DOI:10.1016/j.marpol.2016.09.026

  12. 11

    Probst WN, Lynam CP (2016) Integrated assessment results depend on aggregation method and framework structure - a case study within the European Marine Strategy Framework Directive. Ecol Indic 61:871-881

  13. 12

    Probst WN, Stelzenmüller V (2015) A benchmarking and assessment framework to operationalise ecological indicators based on time series analysis. Ecol Indic 55:94-106, DOI:10.1016/j.ecolind.2015.02.035

  14. 13

    Shephard S, Hal R van, de Boois IJ, Birchenough SNR, Foden J, O'Connor J, Geelhoed SCV, Hoey G van, Marco-Rius F, Reid DG, Schaber M (2015) Making progress towards integration of existing sampling activities to establish Joint Montoring Programmes in support of the MSFD. Mar Policy 59:105-111, DOI:10.1016/j.marpol.2015.06.004

  15. 14

    Probst WN, Rau A, Diekmann R, Dorrien C von, Seidel H, Fock HO, Kraus G, Stelzenmüller V (2014) Eine Thünen-Evaluierung von fisch- und fischereibezogenen Indikatoren der EU Meeresstrategie-Rahmenrichtlinie (MSRL). Hamburg: Johann Heinrich von Thünen-Institut, 106 p, Thünen Working Paper 25, DOI:10.3220/WP_25_2014

  16. 15

    Probst WN, Oesterwind D (2014) How good are alternative indicators for spawning-stockbiomass (SSB) and fishing mortality (F)? ICES J Mar Sci 71(5):1137-1141, doi:10.1093/icesjms/fst207

  17. 16

    Zampoukas N, Palialekis A, Duffek A, Graveland J, Giorgi G, Hagebro C, Hanke G, KorpinenS, Tasker M, Tornero V, Abaza V, Battaglia P, Caparis M, Dekeling R, Frias Vega M, Haarich M, Katsanevakis S, Klein H, Krzyninski W, Probst WN, et al (2014) Technical guidance on monitoring for the Marine Strategy Framework Directive. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union, 166 p, doi:10.2788/70344

  18. 17

    Probst WN, Stelzenmüller V, Kraus G (2013) A simulation-approach to assess the size structure of commercially exploited fish populations within the European Marine Strategy Framework Directive. Ecol Indic 24:621-632, DOI:10.1016/j.ecolind.2012.08.026

  19. 18

    Probst WN, Kloppmann MHF, Kraus G (2013) Indicator-based status assessment of commercial fish species in the North Sea according to the EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD). ICES J Mar Sci 70(3):694-706, doi:10.1093/icesjms/fst010

  20. 19

    Probst WN, Stelzenmüller V, Fock HO (2012) Using cross-correlations to assess the relationship between time-lagged pressure and state indicators: an exemplary analysis of North Sea fish population indicators. ICES J Mar Sci 69(4):670-681, doi:10.1093/icesjms/fss015

    Scroll to top