Directive 2008/56/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 June 2008 establishes a framework for Community action in the field of marine environmental policy (“Marine Strategy Framework Directive”, MSFD). This Directive establishes a framework within which Member States define and implement programs of monitoring measures and programs essential for the Good Environmental Status (GES) of the marine environment to be achieved or maintained by 2020.

Article 5 of the directive specifically mentions that neighbouring Member States should cooperate to ensure consistency and coordination between their marine strategies at sub regional and regional levels. This cooperation is expected to create and strengthen synergies, with efficiency gains in the implementation of the MSFD.

The results obtained from the analysis of the initial stages of the implementation of the MSFD by each Member State have reinforced the need to apply an assessment methodology that is commonly applied by Member States sharing the same marine sub region as is the case of the Macaronesian.

It is to this extent that Portugal and Spain joined forces to develop the MISTIC SEAS project, which sought to develop a set of application methodologies common to the entire Macaronesian marine sub region. In this way, the coherence and comparability of the information produced is ensured.

In addition, the MISTIC SEAS project has joined efforts to design and implement an Action Plan aimed at ensuring the Good Environmental Status of the waters of this marine sub-region.

The Macaronesian sub region is the largest European marine area, with the largest gap being found in scientific knowledge. The biological values ​​of this sub-region are recognized and unique at European level.

The MISTIC SEAS project aimed to develop a common methodology for monitoring the marine environment in the Macaronesian sub region, focusing on the populations of shared species of marine mammals, marine turtles and seabirds.

MISTIC SEAS has been organized into 7 work packages, including a review of the initial assessment of the Azores archipelago, the Madeira archipelago and the Canary Islands as well as a review of the definition of GES and the environmental targets established to comply with Articles 8th, 9th and 10th of the MSFD.

The Plan of Action was intended to guide the integrated implementation of MSFD in the Macaronesian sub-region in accordance with the following objectives:

  1. Identify and analyse gaps and shortcomings related to Articles 8th, 9th and 10th of the MSFD in relation to the guidelines resulting from the Commission's report [COM (2014) 97] on the evaluation of Article 12th and other EU guidelines or standards , in particular the guidelines that have been the subject of discussion within WG GES.
  2. Conduct an analysis of the coherence, commonalities and divergences for each of the archipelagos (Azores, Madeira and the Canary Islands) in order to agree on a common approach for monitoring the selected functional groups (seabirds, marine mammals and marine turtles). This common approach will be the subject of field trials in a joint study in which experts from the three archipelagos will apply the methodology necessary for the implementation of monitoring programs (Article 11 of the MSFD).
  3. 3. Discuss the implementation of a system for sharing and managing information between States for the production and availability of data in formats compatible with existing systems at European, national, regional and local level;
  4. 4. Establish and improve the adequacy, consistency and coherence of the implementation of MSFD at Macaronesia level;
  5. 5. Design a communication and advertising strategy involving stakeholders, as well as public awareness and involvement.