The project

The main objective of MISTIC SEAS III Project “Developing a coordinated approach for assessing Descriptor 4 via its linkages with D1 and other relevant descriptors in the Macaronesian sub-region” is to address the assessment of the environmental status of the marine environment, based on Descriptor 4 (D4, food webs) of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD), trophic networks, which are the set of food chains of an ecosystem, in Macaronesia sub-region (Azores, Madeira and Canary Islands), following the criteria set by the  European Commission.

Through a coordinated action and common approach, the assessment of the environmental status of the marine environment at the Macaronesia sub-region will be carried out, defining and testing methodologies that enable to identity trophic guilds. The results of this work will be integrated with the criteria established for descriptors D1 (Biodiversity) and D3 (Fisheries).

The MISTIC SEAS III project is the follow-up to MISTIC SEAS and MISTIC SEAS II, which worked on the implementation of a common methodology for monitoring descriptor biodiversity in Macaronesia sub-region, focusing on marine mammals, turtles and seabirds common populations on the archipelagos in this sub-region.

The project runs since March 2019 to March 2021 and has a total budget of €1,085,660€, of which 80% is co-funded by the European Commission (DG ENV/MSFD 2018).

The following actions will be carried out:

WP1 – Development of a coordinated approach for addressing and implementing Descriptor 4 (food webs) in the Macaronesian sub-region.

  • Task 1.1. State of the Art of D4.
  • Task 1.2. Approach to the New Decision Criteria for D4
  • Task 1.3. Filling important data gaps for trophic relationships.

WP2 – Macaronesian common approach for the integration and aggregation of biological parameters in the trophic web.

  • Task 2.1. MISTIC SEAS III Database.
  • Task 2.2. Data Analysis and ecosystem modelling.
  • Task 2.3 Pilot to test the methodology.

WP3 – Assessment across Biodiversity descriptors – Linking D4 (trophic guilds), D1 (Biodiversity) and D3 (Fisheries)

  • Task 3.1. Tackle gaps for Descriptors 1-4.
  • Task 3.2. Indicator optimisation and environmental risk assessment.
  • Task 3.3. Improve monitoring of Descriptors 1-4.

WP4 – Synergies and Cooperation between sub-regions

  • Task 4.1. Inter-sub-regional approach.
  • Task 4.2. Common Strategy for D4 in Macaronesia.

WP5 – Communication and dissemination

  • Task 5.1. Communication Plan and Dissemination.
  • Task 5.2. MISTIC SEAS III Website.
  • Task 5.3. Stakeholders dissemination and cooperation.

WP6 – Coordination & Management

  • Task 6.1. Coordination.
  • Task 6.2. Project Management.
  • Task 6.3. Steering Committee.
  • Task 6.4. Consortium Meetings and StCs.

MS3 contribution – Consortium perception/view:

DRAM - Improve the marine trophic web knowledge within Azores arquipelago and Macaronesia subregion by understanding how pressures and management strategies influence the ecosystems.


- Building partnerships within current ocean governance for Macaronesia subregion

-  Understanding the importance of the ocean to humankind – a case study based on Macaronesia subregion

-  One big ocean with many interconnected and interdependent features

Sentences adapted/modified from - F. Santoro et al. (eds). 2017. Ocean Literacy for All - A toolkit, IOC/UNESCO & UNESCO Venice Office, Paris (IOC Manuals and Guides, 80 revised in 2018).

ARDITI - The Project MS3 is a joint effort from Portuguese and Spanish national and regional authorities of Madeira, Azores and the Canaries to define an establish a sub-regional approach for the evaluation of marine environmental status of the ecosystems (MFSD descriptor 4) in Macaronesia. To achieve this goal the project brings together scientific experts from different backgrounds to review the current knowledge of the Macaronesia marine ecosystems, identify knowledge gaps, improve tools and approaches that may be used to monitor and assess the good environmental status of those ecosystems, namely, through the use of Ecopath with Ecosim models. These efforts will not only address management goals but will also generate a more holistic and integrated knowledge of the marine ecosystems in Macaronesia. The team of experts from Madeira has been actively engaged in fulfilling these objectives for Madeira archipelago and the Macaronesia.

DGRM - MSIII, through cooperation between scientific and administrative organizations from two countries, with a common goal of enhance marine ecosystems knowledge, contributes to the adoption of science-based decisions and to raise public awareness regarding the important of study and preservation of the oceans, forming more conscious citizens regarding the sea strategic relevance. 

FB The Biodiversity Foundation has been contributing to the MISTIC SEAS project since 2015. It does so by providing technical and economic support for oceanographic campaigns, which promote scientific and technical knowledge; implementing networking activities; organising seminars and participating in the preparation of technical and informative documents, which increase knowledge of marine conservation in our society.  It also manages the internal and external communication of the project, giving visibility to the importance of the coordinated work developed in the project to determine the good environmental status of the marine environment in the Macaronesia.

IEO - Working towards a sustainable ocean governance for the Macaronesia subregion


- Cooperation between countries and partners, with the aim of reaching a coherent approach to understand and evaluate the marine Macaronesian trophic guilds

- Working together to achieve a common approach for one of the most complex descriptors of the MSFD

- Setting the scene for descriptor 4 - food webs in the macaronesian subregion

CSIC - MS3 aims to integrate information on the structure and function of marine food webs (i.e., who eats who in the sea) into the assessment of Good Environmental Status for European seas in the Macaronesia region.

IMAR (FRCT) - Improve knowledge of the interconnectedness of organisms within marine ecosystems and raise awareness of threats of human exploitation across the food web

Simone Libralato - Assessing the MSFD descriptor on food webs (D4) inevitably implies understanding and integrating several aspects with large benefits in terms of improved knowledge.

Chiara Piroddi - Anthropogenic pressures are rapidly expanding throughout the world and understanding how marine food webs respond to such stressors is essential for their preservation and sustainable use. In this context, MS3 will be an important asset in supporting the EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive for the Macaronesia Region. In fact, enhancing monitoring and measures programs, defining/estimating baselines and thresholds and using the best available modelling tools to assess Macaronesia health status will not only improve knowledge on marine food webs/biodiversity in the region but will also constitute an important reference point for future policy needs and decisions.

José Juan Castro Hernández - Plato once said that "a good decision is based on knowledge, not on numbers", but certainly the numbers are very important to dimension reality, although it is knowledge that allows us to interpret them properly in their context. Mistic Seas 3 project is a great opportunity to contextualize some new numbers in the incipient knowledge that we still have of the Ocean.

Lorena Couce Montero - Mistic Seas 3 project will help identify the existing information gaps and propose indicators adapted to the particularities of the Macaronesian archipelagos and their marine ecosystems.

Cátia Gouveia - “Como predadores de topo, as aves marinhas funcionam como um valioso indicador da saúde do meio marinho global, saúde essa que estará claramente em risco se as tendências atuais não forem invertidas. O MSIII fornecerá uma ferramenta útil para monitorizar estas espécies e avaliar o estado ambiental na Macaronésia”.

Susana Garrido - Project MISTIC SEAS III, will contribute to ocean's literacy by setting up and using common methodologies to evaluate and contribute to the Good Environmental State of the Macaronesia sub-region, by making informed and responsible decisions regarding the ocean status based on the trophic links of the ecosystems.