Policy & Legislation: Water Frameworks Directive


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The Water Frameworks Directive provides legal structure to protect and restore clean water across Europe and ensure its long-term, sustainable use (DOE, 2015). This piece of legislation integrates agriculture, industry, and spatial planning, and impacts on, while also being impacted by, many other existing pieces of legislation.

Adopted by the EU in 2000, the Water Frameworks Directive was the result of ongoing investigation into water quality, which began in the 1970’s and 1980’s  (culminating in quality objective legislation on fish waters, shellfish waters, bathing waters and groundwaters) and increasing demands for cleaner water from citizens and environmental organisations. Despite the European Water Policy undergoing a thorough restructuring process in the last 30 years, and the adoption of the newer, more focused Water Framework Directive, concern over water quality is still very much evident  among communities, scientific and environmental organisations.

In 2012 for example, 25,524 European citizens aged 15 and above were interviewed by telephone , at the request of the European Commission’s Directorate-General for the Environment to gauge public opinion on issues relating to water conservation and to establish whether awareness of water issues had improved over time (WWW1).


Level of information about problems facing groundwater, lakes, rivers, and coastal waters (WWW2 p.6)

The results of this survey showed that ‘75% of Europeans consider that the EU should propose additional measures to address water problems in Europe with the main focus of such measures on water pollution from industry and agriculture’ (WWW2). 67% of participants felt that they were not well informed on issues affecting water quality and that greater emphasis on dissemination of relevant information was one of the best solutions to tackle this environmental issue collaboratively.

European Commission Flash Eurobarometer

Tackling Water Problems (WWW2 p.17)

The Water Frameworks Directive is unique in that it establishes a framework for the protection of all waters and their dependent wildlife/habitats under one piece of environmental legislation (WWW3). The Water Frameworks Directive aims to :

  • protect/enhance all waters (surface, ground and coastal waters)
  • achieve “good status” for all waters by December 2015
  • manage water bodies based on river basins (or catchments)
  • involve the public
  • streamline legislation

The Birds, Habitats, and Nitrates Directives, along with regulations on drinking water, bathing waters, and urban waste are all key factors within the Water Frameworks Directive, as well as the Marine Strategy Frameworks Directive. A major requirement of Member States within the Water Frameworks Directive is the preparation of River Basin Management Plans, comprised of three, five year planning cycles. Ireland is currently within the second of these planning cycles.

  • 1st Cycle River Basin Management Plans: 2009-2014
  • 2nd Cycle River Basin Management Plans: 2015-2021
2nd Cycle RBDs-450x635

River basin districts of second cycle of WFD (2015 – 2021) (WWW4)


These plans are laid out with the goal of achieving Good Ecological Status of all waters. Ireland will begin its second cycle in 2017, but is currently 2 years behind schedule and so the next cycle will last 4 years rather than 5. Mr. Simon Coveney T.D. Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government has also called for submissions, observations and comments on the current draft plan for 2018 – 2021.

At the time of writing (March 2016), 63% of Irish coastal waters (1 nautical mile from land (European Comission, 2003)) are deemed to be in “High” ecological status, with the majority of riverine and transitional waters being in a “Moderate” status. Additionally, 73% of Irish rivers have been classified as “unpolluted” as of the last cycle, which is comparatively better than that of most other European countries. Efficient implementation of this framework, combined with the Marine Strategy Frameworks Directive, could greatly help with the conservation of the coastal marine environment.

Seán  and  Orla-Peach



WWW1 – Eurobarometer Overview

WWW2 – Flash Eurobarometer Report

WWW3 – Water Frameworks Directive Ireland

WWW4 – River Basin Management Cycles

Policy & Legislation: The Habitats Directive


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This Directive was adopted by the EU in 1992, and is based around the protection and conservation of all habitats, flora and fauna of Member States. It aims to maintain biodiversity while taking account of all social, economic, cultural, and regional aspects of each country. Working in conjunction with the Birds Directive, a further five annexes have been laid out separately within this piece of legislation.

  • Annex I demands the definition of each individual habitat type and the features of interest within them.
  • Annex II covers roughly 900 species of plant and animal, specifying that sites must be managed with the ecological need of each species as paramount.
  • Annex III enforces both site and species specific assessments, while defining the importance of the habitat to the local community.
  • Annex IV enforces a strict protection regime across the entire range of a species, both within and outside of designated areas.
  • Annex V ensures that any exploitation or taking of species is compatible with favourable conservation status.

Another factor of the Habitats Directive includes the implementation of Species Action Plans to restore and maintain populations of particular species. Furthermore, all Member States must provide regular reports on the status of their habitats and species, and on any compensatory measures put in place by the State. The Directive is constantly improved and amended based on the advice of a specialised Habitats Committee. However, from a marine perspective, habitat conservation and protection can only be effectively carried out by ensuring clean and suitable water quality. This was the reason for the establishment of the Water Frameworks Directive and the Marine Strategy Frameworks Directive.


Policy & Legislation: The Birds Directive


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The Birds Directive was first adopted by the EU in 1979, and was later amended in 2009 and is currently one of the oldest pieces of environmental legislation. This directive grants protection to the native and migratory birds of Europe, providing a relief of pressures stemming from habitat degradation or reduction as a result of forestry, agriculture, fisheries, and the use of pesticides. It is this piece of legislation that led to the establishment of Special Protected Areas, and gives restriction to the use of poison baits, capture, and hunting of the 500 bird species within the EU. Adapted each time a new Member State joins the EU, five annexes have been laid out to protect and conserve bird species and their habitats. These Annexes are:

  1. Annex I represents 194 individual species and subspecies, and specifically deals with the allocation of special protected areas.
  2. Annex II deals with hunting procedures for 82 species, stating the timing at which hunting of certain species is permitted. This includes a total ban on all forms of hunting during migration to nesting sites, and at times of reproduction and chick rearing.
  3. Annex III covers 26 species and the deliberate threats posed to these birds by humans. Only with the tightest restrictions are the killing, capture, trade, and disturbing of nests of these birds permitted.
  4. Annex IV bans all forms of mass killings of bird species, and lays out sustainable hunting practices for Member States.
  5. Annex V promotes research to exemplify the protection, management and use of all species contained within the Directive. The establishment of the Birds Directive directly led to the formation of the Habitats Directive.
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Curlew (WWW1)

Species loss of migratory birds is due in particular to habitat loss and degradation. The Curlew (Numenius arquata) for example, one of Ireland’s most recognisable wetland birds, has been placed on n the red list of Birds of Conservation Concern in Ireland due to significant drop in its population. Between 1998-2008 in particular, numbers went from 12,000 to just 1,700 birds (WWW2) with current surveys of breeding populations suggesting that as few as 200 breeding pairs remain (WWW3). Though population decline is due to a number of factors including, predation (they are ground-nesting species), afforestation, and climate change, the greatest threat comes from habitat loss. Population decline can therefor be mitigated by emphasising the protection of localised habitats for endangered and migratory species. This is achieved through cross-border collaboration between EU member states.

Seán  and  Orla-Peach


WWW1 – Curlew

WWW1 – Iconic Wader in Trouble

WWW2 – 2017 Curlew Populations

Policy & Legislation : Common Fisheries Policy

The Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) deals with the management of European fishing fleets, the conservation of fish stocks, and implements aquaculture control measures. Member states of the EU have equal access to all European waters to generate fair competition under this policy, first introduced in the 1970s. Updated in 2014, the CFP introduced several new limitations, such as the discard ban, and is comprised of four separate but interlinking components. These four components are:

Fisheries Management

A  fisheries management plan is in place and is applicable to EU member states as a means of ensuring high long-term fishing yields for all stocks . This management system considers longterm conservation of finite resources, while also being concerned with the sustainability and profitability of the industry for the various stakeholders. Another aspect of the CFP is that of the discard ban. This restriction on commercial fishing was added to the new CFP in 2014, and forces fishermen to land every individual fish caught as part of their total allowable catch. It is also referred to as  a ‘landing obligation’.


Fisheries management is based on availability of accurate, reliable raw data, and scientific advice from scientific advisory boards such as:

International Policy

This component of the CFP refers to the trade rules established between non-EU and Member States. The EU is the largest single market and a net importer of fish products and therefore plays a key role in promoting better governance. This is achieved through the creation and implementation of policies and legislation for the management of marine resources, in consultation with international partners such as the Food and Agriculture Organisation, and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) (WWW1).

Market and trade Policy

This component refers to ‘The Common Organisation of the Markets’ which insures marketing standards to products sold in the EU market regardless of origin. In this way producers are responsible for sustainable exploitation of finite resources and the marketing of their product. By implementing common marketing standards to producers within member states,  consumers receive more transparent information about the products they are purchasing. The information provided to the consumer is regulated by Consumer Information Rules with new rules implemented on 13 December 2014.

Under the new rules, fish, molluscs, crustaceans and algae, products sold to consumers or mass caterers must bear the following information (WWW2):

  • the commercial and scientific name of the species
  • whether the product was caught at sea or in freshwater, or farmed
  • the catch or production area and the type of fishing gear used to catch the product
  • whether the product has been defrosted and  the date of minimum durability (also known as the ‘best before’ or ‘use by’ date), in line with general food labeling rules
  • detailed information regarding origin of catch/product

To learn more about the information provided to consumers, see this CFP information sheet: Tools for the World’s Largest Seafood Market

Funding of the Policy

This component sets minimum prices for seafood products and finances the buying up of unused fish.

  • European Fisheries Fund (2007 – 2013)

The European fisheries Fund, provided funding to fishing industry and coastal communities to ‘help them adapt to changing conditions in the sector and become economically resilient and ecologically sustainable’ (WWW3). To facilitate this, 4.3 billion euro was made available to all sectors within the fishing industry (inland and sea fishing, aquaculture etc).

  • European and Maritime Fisheries Fund (2014 – 2020)

This is one of five European Structural and Investment funds which seeks to promote jobs based recovery in Europe by:

  • helping fishermen in the transition to sustainable fishing
  • supporting coastal communities in diversifying their economies
  • financing projects that create new jobs and improve quality of life along European coasts
  • making it easier for applicants to access financing.

Financial allocation per member state (WWW4)

The EMFF in particular also provides investment support to small scale coastal fishermen by facilitating investment in training, conservation and stock rebuilding, and by investing in equipment such as first own fishing boats, engines and on board equipment.

Other aspects of the CFP include, but are not limited to: implementation of quotas and Total Allowable Catches, fishing controls such as closures and minimum landing sizes, funding for the upgrading of vessels, gear, and processing methods. The CFP also provides control and management frameworks to recreational fishers, and to the sustainability and low environmental impact of commercial fisheries and aquaculture facilities. These are just a few examples of what the CFP entails, the entirety of which is laid out in EU Regulation No. 1380/2013 (2013).

Seán  and  Orla-Peach


WWW1 – Fishing Outside the EU

WWW2 – Consumer Information CFP

WWW3 & 4 – Financial Allocation per Member State

Policy & Legislation: The OSPAR Convention

The initial Oslo and Paris Conventions covered European Union waters and stemmed from the Bonn Agreement in 1969, which came into place to grant protection to the 31 marine environment from oil-based pollution. In 1974, the Oslo Agreement was brought into place to give protection from dumping at sea by aircraft and ships, followed by the Paris Agreement in 1978, preventing the pollution of the marine environment from land-based sources (WWW2). On the 22nd of September, 1992, at the Ministerial Meeting of the Oslo and Paris Commissions, what is currently known as the OSPAR Convention was opened for signatories. This new convention for protection of the marine environment was signed by the EU as well as 15 individual countries: Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, UK, Luxembourg, and Switzerland. This new convention included all previous decisions, amendments and recommendations of the previous three agreements, but added new conditions divided into five annexes. These annexes are as follows:

  • Annex I: Prevention and Elimination of pollution from land-based sources
  • Annex II: Prevention and Elimination of pollution by dumping and incineration
  • Annex III: Prevention and Elimination of pollution from offshore sources
  • Annex IV: Mandatory Assessments by each signatory state of the quality of the marine environment
  • Annex V: The protection and conservation of the ecosystems and biological diversity of the maritime area.

The OSPAR Convention came into force from the 25th of March, 1998, strengthening and driving improvements to several pre-existing conservation driven directives and policies, such as that of the Common Fisheries Policy.

All information pertaining to the OSPAR convention is contained in this document.




WWW2 – OSPAR History

Deep Maps Blog Series: Policy & Legislation


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With mounting anthropogenic and ecological pressures on the coastal marine environment, global governments are realising the importance of the services provided to coastal communities by the marine ecosystem. On both a national and international level, several vital pieces of legislation and policy guidelines have been put into force over the last number of years. European initiatives like the Oslo Paris Convention (OSPAR) and the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), are further supported by the Birds and Habitats Directives, along with the Water Frameworks Directive (WFD) and Marine Strategy Frameworks Directive (MSFD), the Nitrates Directive, adding further levels of protection to the marine environment on an international level. The Irish government has also decided that further knowledge and conservation is needed, and so have come up with a National Biodiversity Plan. All of the above policies and legislations cannot be effectively enforced by the European Union and national governments alone, which is where the National Parks and Wildlife Service play a most crucial role.

Through this blog series Deep Maps hopes to provide a better understanding of some of the policies and legislation that governs our waters and provides frameworks for management of our marine resources. In this series we will cover:

  1. The OSPAR Convention
  2. The Common Fisheries Policy
  3. The Birds Directive
  4. The Habitats Directive
  5. The Water Frameworks Directive
  6. The Marine Strategy Frameworks Directive
  7. The Nitrates Directive
  8. The Irish National Biodiversity Action Plan
  9. The National Parks and Wildlife Service

These will cover a range of further more specific topics of importance to Ireland’s coastline. The information contained in this blog series was researched and compiled by Seán MacGabhann  as part of a broader literature review looking at West Cork’s coastline, and has been edited and contributed to by Orla-Peach Power unless otherwise stated.

Oceans Past VI Conference, Portugal

Our Principal Investigators Dr. Claire Connolly and Dr. Rob McAllen will be presenting on our Deep Maps: West Cork Coastal Cultures project at this year’s ‘Oceans Past VI International Conference’ which runs from the 15th – 19th May. The sixth Conference in the Oceans Past series, will be held by CHAM-FCSH, NOVA/UAc with the support of Sesimbra Municipality (Portugal) under the main theme ‘Historical Perspectives on the Elements and Dynamics of the Socio-Ecological System’.

Our Deep Maps presentation will commence  with an introduction to some of the environmental priorities that relate to the West Cork coastal region. Next, the presentation will consider how these priorities have emerged over time, analysing their portrayal in cultural data including folklore, historical writing, literature and visual arts. This will frame a final discussion on some of the ways in which we have been working with local communities to understand the significance of this coastal region to them, in terms of what they value most about it, and their environmental concerns. The Deep Maps project findings consist of multiple stories, and we are developing new ways of presenting them, including timelines and maps, and it is these that will be the focus of the last section of the presentation.

To learn more about the conference proceedings and participants see:

Biodiversity & Conservation: Awareness & Costs

Public awareness of the importance of marine conservation is growing. Through research, ecotourism, and the media, more and more people are starting to understand the importance of services provided by the coastal marine environment.


Inchydoney Island Kayaking (WWW1)

Irish people have identified the marine environment as most important for its scenery, recreation and tourism, a source of food, employment, and, to a lesser extent, part of national culture and identity (Hynes et al., 2014). With this growing awareness comes the pressures upon the Irish government and industries to instate more eco-friendly policies and measures. For example, in 2016 the Irish government allocated €2 million towards climate change research and mitigation as part of the International Green Climate Fund. With these new policies and initiatives, though, come costs; both public and private research contractors all require funding, rangers and other staff members need to be paid, and the erection of protective structures does not always affordable. Limited funds creates a particular difficulty in the enforcement of environmental policy. For example, the National Parks and Wildlife Service is the main enforcer of the protected status of SPAs, SACs and MPAs (see Protected Areas blog post for further details), but, due to lack of proper funding, only a single ranger has been employed to oversee South West Cork and South West Kerry (DAHG, 2013). Insufficient manpower as a result of poorly allocated funds makes it difficult to ensure the conservation of the coastal marine environment. Only through higher levels of funding and public involvement can these conservation methods be implemented fully.


Food Web Structures (WWW2)

Once the complexities of food web structures are more generally understood, through the important scientific research being carried out by professionals and the public, the key role biodiversity plays in the maintenance of the coastal marine environment will become of greater public concern than it already is. Through proper protective measures, with correct and appropriate levels of funding, the coastal marine environment will continue to provide all of the valuable services, not only to coastal areas, but to the whole of Ireland.



Department of Arts, Heritage, and the G. (2013). Site Name : Lough Hyne Nature Reserve and Environs SAC

Hynes, S., Norton, D., & Corless, R. (2014) Investigating societal attitudes towards the marine environment of Ireland. Marine Policy, 47, 57–65.

WWW1 – Inchydoney Island Kayaking

WWW2 – Food Web Structures

Biodiversity & Conservation: Ecotourism

It is not just those residents in coastal areas and scientists that are utilising the marine environment in Ireland. Tourism has always been associated with sun, sea, and sand, and this continues to be the case today. 63% of all tourists make use of the coastal regions (Davenport and Davenport 2006), and with decreasing costs of airfare and travel, this figure is expected to rise. By 2020, it is estimated that over 350 million tourists will annually utilise the coasts of the Mediterranean alone (World Tourism Organization 2004). With increased desires of tourists to explore the natural world while holidaying, the ecotourism industry has been growing rapidly in recent years. Hillwalking, SCUBA, kayaking, and whale watching are just some examples of how the coastal marine environment has been utilised as a valuable form of tourism driven economics. Although deemed as low environmental impact activities, there have been noted detrimental effects on the ecosystem as both direct and indirect results of the ecotourism industry.


Walking tour along the Beara Way (WWW2)

The greatest of these threats comes from the expansion of infrastructure, such as the construction of hotels, improvement of roadways, and increased footfall and traffic (Davenport and Davenport, 2006). Habitat destruction, pollution, litter, and direct disturbance of wildlife, are all widely occurring during infrastructure expansion. Personal watercraft and poorly trained SCUBA divers have also had noted effects on the marine environment through disturbing of marine animals, damage to corals and algae, and the resuspension of sediments (Cubero-Pardo and Bastidas, 2008).


Water Pollution of the Sea from Untreated Ballast Water Discharge (WWW3)

Anchor damage and ballast discharge have also been mentioned as two leading causes of decline in coastal marine biodiversity, both in Ireland and the world in general (Lewis, 1985). Beach walkers can accidentally trample plant life, which plays a major role in the maintenance of sand dune structure and stability. Uninformed whale watching tour operators can unintentionally traumatise and frighten whale and dolphin species by being in too close a proximity to the animals. Kayakers can potentially damage marine life attached to piers, jetties and, slipways. There is potential pressure brought in with each activity that can only be reduced through ecological awareness and correct practice.


Floating Walkway Barleycove (WWW4)

By in large, Irish ecotourism operators, particularly in South West Cork, are in good practice and well informed on environmental issues, and how to best reduce the impacts while still maintaining a viable business. Most SCUBA training agencies incorporate the importance of correct technique and control to avoid damage and disturbance to marine life. Sand dune walkways, such as those found at Barleycove (also a designated pSAC and pNHA), help keep walkers away from sensitive areas, thus preserving the natural dune structure. Whale watchers are well informed and educated enforcing strict time and distance restrictions, many of which vary by the species in question. It is for reasons like these that the threat posed by ecotourism in Ireland is being minimised, allowing it to continue to draw thousands of tourists to the coast each year.



Davenport, J., & Davenport, J. L. (2006) The impact of tourism and personal leisure transport on coastal environments: A review. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science, 67(1-2), 280–292.

Duffy, J. E. (2003) Biodiversity loss, trophic skew and ecosystem functioning. Ecology Letters, 6(8), 680–687.

World Tourism Organization (2004) Indicators of Sustainable Development for Tourism Destinations: A Guidebook.

WWW1 – Header Image

WWW2 – Walking tour on the Beara Way

WWW3 – Water Pollution of the Sea from Untreated Ballast Water Discharges

WWW4 – Floating Walkway Barleycove

Biodiversity & Conservation: Scientific Research


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The role of scientific investigation into marine coastal environments is essential as it not only identifies key changes and pressures, but also allows researchers to develop conservation agendas and policies to address these changes. Most research involving conservation and biodiversity in Ireland is carried out by public and private institutions working with and for government bodies. Organisations like the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Irish Marine Institute, and the National Parks and Wildlife Service, as well as universities, are all key players in the understanding of what is occurring in the marine environment today and how trends have changed over time. A recent study has shown that the general public believe that scientists are the best suited group to manage the marine environment, with over twice that of local and national governments (Hynes et al., 2014). What the public may not realise is that they too can play a key role in scientific research.


Aerial view of Lough Hyne (WWW1)

Increasingly, scientists have realised how valuable non-scientists are as a resource, both in terms of data collection and information processing. “Citizen science” has been identified to be highly useful, particularly in the ecological field. Projects revolving around topics such as climate change, invasive species, conservation biology, ecological restoration, water quality, population ecology, and a variety of monitoring aspects, have all gleaned valuable information from the involvement of citizen scientists (Silvertown, 2009). Especially when field work is required, members of the public can provide an effective method of collecting large amounts of data very quickly. One organisation in particular that benefits from citizen science participation is the National Biodiversity Data Centre.


The National Biodiversity Data Centre supports a number of recording initiatives within local communities and provides easy and accessible tutorials for identifying species of flora and fauna. Sightings are often posted by the public to Twitter, through their standardised recording sheets available via their website, and also through their Biodiversity Data Capture App developed by Compass Informatics. Once verified all of this data is uploaded and presented on their Biodiversity Maps. Advancements in technology such as good quality smartphone cameras are continuing to help involve members of the public in scientific research (Dickinson et al., 2012). TO catch up with some of the work being undertaken by members of the public, visit the following Twitter campaigns:


Bumblebee covered in pollen (WWW2)

Closer to home, the School of Bioloigcal, Earth and Environmental Sciences at University College Cork is heavily involved in research projects and initiatives that focus on pressing environmental issues both within a coastal and inland context. You can learn more about the diverse projects being undertaken within this school by visiting their Research page.

Through the Freedom of Information Act and the Aarhus Convention (UNEC 1998), members of the public are not only encouraged to be involved in environmental management, but actually have the right to access information and voice their opinions. However, in Ireland, this appears to not be generally known, and so is less frequently occurring. It is through creating a dialogue between trained scientists and citizen scientists, that the most effective methods of environmental monitoring and management can be put in place.

Seán & Orla-Peach


Dickinson, J. L., Shirk, J., Bonter, D., Bonney, R., Crain, R. L., Martin, J., Purcell, K. (2012). The current state of citizen science as a tool for ecological research and public engagement. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, 10(6), 291–297.

Duffy, J. E. (2003). Biodiversity loss, trophic skew and ecosystem functioning. Ecology Letters, 6(8), 680–687.

Hynes, S., Norton, D., & Corless, R. (2014). Investigating societal attitudes towards the marine environment of Ireland. Marine Policy, 47, 57–65.

Silvertown, J. (2009). A new dawn for citizen science. Trends in Ecology & Evolution, 24(9), 467–71.

WWW1 – Aerial View of Lough Hyne

WWW2 – Bumblebee covered in Pollen