Five steps have been identified to assess Good Environmental Status (GES) for Descriptor 3, and different approaches for directing these steps towards assessment are applied in five case studies: the Baltic Sea, Mediterranean Sea, Northeast Atlantic Ocean (Bay of Biscay and Iberian Coast), Northeast Atlantic Ocean (North Sea), and Northeast Atlantic Ocean (Celtic seas).
An analysis comparing the outcomes of the GES assessments, based on indicators with reference levels (from stock assessments) and without reference levels (from monitoring programmes), demonstrated some consistency but also revealed that the GES assessment based on indicators with reference values is stricter than the one based on indicators without reference values.
Three possible definitions of GES at the criterion level are considered, reflecting different levels of ambition. The examples provided in the report confirmed that the interpretation of GES has important consequences for the outcome of the GES assessment.
The report also discusses the potential role of “ecosystem” indicators collected under the fishery Data Collection Framework (DCF) to support assessments of other MSFD Descriptors.