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The legal protection of the marine environment: The Marine Strategy Framework Directive and its implementation in Spain

Ana Barreira

elni Review 2012, Issue 2,  pp. 46-53.

Marine ecosystems are open systems with complex interactions within and among them. Impacts on or alterations to one ecosystem in one site of the marine environment will influence other sites, i.e: human activities, conducted in the coastal zone can have significant impacts on the offshore environment, and vice-versa. Within the European Union, bathed by two oceans (the Atlantic and the Arctic) and four seas (the Baltic, Black, Mediterranean and North seas) and with 22 coastal states, the Sixth Environmental Action Programme of the European Community set the process to establish an Integrated Maritime Policy (IMP) when it proposed the development of a strategy for marine protection identifying marine protection as one of its priority areas. 
The IMP was adopted in 2007. The environmental dimension of the IMP is the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD). Its aim is to protect more effectively the marine environment across Europe through the achievement of good environmental status of the EU's marine waters by 2020 and to protect the resource base upon which marine-related economic and social activities depend. The purpose of this article is to analyse the main elements of the MSFD and to examine how Spain, as an EU country with 8000 km of coastal fringe, ist complying with it and will review its marine governance framework.

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