Introduction to the UK Marine Strategy

The UK Marine Strategy provides the framework for delivering marine policy at the UK level and sets out how we will achieve the vision of clean, healthy, safe, productive and biologically diverse oceans and seas.

The UK Marine Strategy consists of a simple 3-stage framework for achieving good environmental status (GES) in our seas. Achieving GES is about protecting the marine environment, preventing its deterioration and restoring it where practical, while allowing sustainable use of marine resources. The strategy covers 11 elements (known as descriptors) including: biodiversity; non-indigenous species; commercial fish; food webs; eutrophication; sea-floor integrity; hydrographical conditions; contaminants; contaminants in seafood; marine litter and underwater noise.

Publication of the UK Marine Strategy Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 between December 2012 and December 2015 marked a significant step forward in the protection and management of the waters around our coasts. This approach is enshrined in legislation that will continue when we leave the EU and demonstrates the combined commitments of the four UK Administrations to work together to protect what are some of the most biologically diverse and productive seas in Europe.

The updated UK Marine Strategy Part 1, published in 2019, marks the beginning of the second implementation cycle of the UK Marine Strategy. It provides an opportunity to show the progress we have made towards our shared vision since 2012, what further action is necessary and to re-affirm our commitment to work together as the United Kingdom to protect our seas while respecting our national priorities and responsibilities.

This Marine Online Assessment Tool, providing access to the integrated assessments and indicator assessments used to assess progress towards GES, supports the updated Marine Strategy Part 1 and makes the science underpinning the assessments readily available and easily accessible to all. 

The Marine Online Assessment Tool is structured into 7 sections:




Introduction to the UK Marine Strategy

This section provides an introduction to the UK Marine Strategy, the Marine Online Assessment Tool and the geographic scope of the UK Marine Strategy.

Summary of progress towards Good Environmental Status

This section provides a summary of progress towards Good Environmental Status since its first assessment in 2012.

Pressures from human activities

This section provides the integrated assessments and indicator assessments for non-indigenous species, commercial fish, eutrophication, changes in hydrographical conditions, contaminants, contaminants in seafood, litter and input of anthropogenic sound.

Biodiversity, food webs and marine protected areas

This section provides the integrated assessments and indicator assessments for cetaceans, seals, birds, fish, pelagic habitats and benthic habitats. An integrated assessment of food webs is also provided, alongside progress on developing the UK marine protected area network.

Ocean processes and climate

This section provides an assessment of several physical and chemical characteristics of UK seas, including sea surface temperature, salinity, turbidity, and ocean acidification. 

Uses of the marine environment


This section provides an analysis of uses of the marine environment that have an impact on the status of marine resources upon which environmental, economic and social services depend.  It includes a social and economic analysis, an analysis of predominant pressures exerted by human activities, an evaluation of public perceptions and an approach to assessing the cumulative effects of human activities.


Acknowledges the numerous people and organisations which have contributed to making the updated UK Marine Strategy Part 1 a success.

Geographic scope

The UK Marine Strategy covers the extent of the marine waters over which the UK exercises jurisdiction. This area extends from the landward boundary of coastal waters which is equivalent to Mean High Water Springs to the outer limit of the UK Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). It also includes the seabed in the area of the continental shelf beyond the EEZ over which the UK exercises jurisdiction on the basis of a submission to the Commission on the limits of the continental shelf. The waters to the west of the UK comprise part of the Celtic Seas sub-region, and waters to the east of the UK, including the Channel, form part of the Greater North Sea sub-region. These sub-regions and the area of UK waters over which the UK Marine Strategy applies is shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1: The area of UK waters to which the UK Marine Strategy applies, and the relevant MSFD sub-regions.

graph of uk waters

Monitoring and Assessment

The monitoring and assessment work for the various indicators were carried out by experts and scientists working in the UK Marine Monitoring and Assessment Strategy (UKMMAS) Evidence Groups which were coordinated and guided by the UK Monitoring and Assessment Reporting Group (MARG). 

Wherever possible, we developed the indicators and carried out our monitoring programmes together with OSPAR countries using agreed methods and assessment criteria to provide a coordinated approach across the North East Atlantic.