. .

Implementation of the EcAp - Step 4

    • Development of a set of ecological objectives corresponding to the vision and strategic goals

Ecological Objective (EO) is a very generic term but, in essence, specifying an EO means providing a set of clear environmental indicators leading towards certain desired ecological/environmental quality.

Ecological objectives have been defined through an intensive process of consultation led by the UNEP/MAP Secretariat fully owned by the Contracting Parties and with participation of Mediterranean Action Plan Partners and technical experts.

Click on the icons below to navigate to the relevant ecological objective

1- Biological diversity

2-Non-indigenous species

3-Harvest of Commercially exploited fish and shellfish

4-Marine food webs


6-Sea floor integrity


8-Coastal ecosystems and landscapes


10-Marine litter 11-Energy including underwater noise


EO 1: Biological diversity

Back to Top

Biological diversity is maintained or enhanced. The quality and occurrence of coastal and marine habitats and the distribution and abundance of coastal and marine species are in line with prevailing physiographic, hydrographic, geographic, and climatic conditions

The biological diversity is "the variability among living organisms from all sources including, interalia, [terrestrial,] marine [and other aquatic ecosystems] and the ecological complexes of which they are part; this includes diversity within species, between species and of ecosystems".

The term ‘maintained’ is key to the quantification of GES for EO 1. This condition has three determining factors:

  1. no further loss of the diversity within species, between species and of habitats/communities and ecosystems at ecologically relevant scales;
  2. any deteriorated attributes of biological diversity are restored to and maintained at or above target levels, where intrinsic conditions allow;
  3. where the use of the marine environment is sustainable.
EO 2: Non-indigenous species

Back to Top

Non-indigenous species introduced by human activities are at levels that do not adversely alter the ecosystem

Non-indigenous species are species, subspecies or lower taxa introduced outside of their natural range and outside of their natural dispersal potential. This includes any part, gamete or propagule of such species that might survive and subsequently reproduce. Their presence in the given region is due to intentional or unintentional introduction resulting from human activities.

In the Mediterranean, marine invasive species are regarded as one of the main causes of biodiversity loss potentially modifying all aspects of marine and other aquatic ecosystems.

EO 3: Harvest of Commercially exploited fish and shellfish

Back to Top

Populations of selected commercially exploited fish and shellfish are within biologically safe limits, exhibiting a population age and size distribution that is indicative of a healthy stock

The level of exploitation under the ecological objective 3 should be that of Maximum Sustainable Yield. MSY is the maximum annual catch, which can be taken year after year without reducing the productivity of the fish stock.

EO 4: Marine food webs

Back to Top

Alterations to components of marine food webs caused by resource extraction or human-induced environmental changes do not have long-term adverse effects on food web dynamics and related viability

A healthy marine ecosystem requires a well functioning of its food web.

This ecological objective is the same as the ecological objective 3, but also includes species which are not commercially exploited.

EO 5: Eutrophication

Back to Top

Human-induced eutrophication is prevented, especially adverse effects thereof, such as losses in biodiversity, ecosystem degradation, harmful algal blooms, and oxygen deficiency in bottom waters

Eutrophication is a process driven by enrichment of water by nutrients, especially compounds of nitrogen and/or phosphorus, leading to: increased growth, primary production and biomass of algae; changes in the balance of nutrients causing changes to the balance of organisms; and water quality degradation. The consequences of eutrophication are undesirable if they appreciably degrade ecosystem health and/or the sustainable provision of goods and services. These changes may occur due to natural processes. Management concern begins when they are attributed to anthropogenic sources.

GES with regard to eutrophication is achieved when the biological community remains well-balanced and retains all necessary functions in the absence of undesirable disturbance associated with eutrophication.

EO 6: Sea floor integrity

Back to Top

Sea-floor integrity is maintained, especially in priority benthic habitats

Many human activities (trawling, dredging, seabed mining,drilling ...) cause physical damage to seabed. However, given the serious consequences of their impacts, especially on vulnerable habitats and those with a low capacity of restoration, stronger measures to minimize the physical deterioration of the seabed should be implemented.

EO 7: Hydrography

Back to Top

Alteration of hydrographic conditions does not adversely affect coastal and marine ecosystems

Hydrographical conditions are characterized by the physical characteristics of seawater such as bathymetric data,  seafloor topography, current velocity, wave exposure, turbulence, turbidity, temperature and salinity. These characteristics play a crucial role in the dynamics of marine ecosystems and can be altered by human activities, especially in coastal areas. Alterations to hydrographical conditions can occur due to the construction of physical structures or through excavation of navigational channels.

EO 8: Coastal ecosystems and landscapes

Back to Top

The natural dynamics of coastal areas are maintained and coastal ecosystems and landscapes are preserved

Coastal zones play a key role in the economic development of regions and nations as they are a significant source of various goods and services.

Mediterranean coastal areas are threatened by coastal development that modifies the coastline through the construction of buildings and infrastructures.  However, there has not been systematic monitoring, in particular not quantitatively based monitoring or any major attempt to systematize characteristics of coastal ecosystems on a wider Mediterranean basis. The status assessment of EO8 aims to fill this gap because it reflects the aim of the Barcelona Convention to include coastal areas in the assessment.

EO 9: Pollution

Back to Top

Contaminants cause no significant impact on coastal and marine ecosystems and human health

GES under Ecological Objective 9 is achieved when contaminants cause no significant impact on coastal and marine ecosystems and human health.

EO 10: Marine litter

Back to Top

Marine and coastal litter does not adversely affect coastal and marine environments

Marine litter is a problem not just along coastlines but also in the high seas, as the waste from human activities is often degraded directly which can cause health as well as aesthetic problems.

In particular the breakdown at sea of plastic into tiny particles or microplastics can be detrimental to marine environmental quality.

EO 11: Energy including underwater noise

Back to Top

Noise from human activities causes no significant impact on marine and coastal ecosystems

Anthropogenic energy introduced by human activities into the marine environment includes sound, light and other electromagnetic fields, heat and radioactive energy. Among these, the most widespread and pervasive is underwater sound. Sources of marine noise pollution include ship traffic, geophysical exploration and oil and gas exploitation, military sonar use and underwater detonations,... Such activities are growing throughout the Mediterranean Sea and marine organisms can be adversely affected both on short and long timescale.

Management concern is primarily associated to the negative effects of noise on sensitive protected species, such as some species of marine mammals, though there is growing awareness that an ecosystem-wide approach also needs to be considered.