Many recent developments in European marine and estuarine science have been against the demands of European Union legislation. The implementation of certain statutes, the role of scientists and the nature of the data required are discussed using examples from the UK, the Netherlands and Portugal. This includes the implementation of the EU Directives on Urban Waste-water Treatment, the control of Nitrates, the designation of Species and Habitats, the control of Dangerous Substances, the statutory requirement for Environmental Impact Assessments and the recently proposed Water Framework Directive. For these, the integration of physical, chemical and biological monitoring and investigation is discussed in relation to the science dictated by the legislative and administrative requirements. Each of these Directives requires the development of generic guidelines and protocols for implementation and the use of national enabling legislation. This indicates that, in several cases, the science should concentrate on monitoring and assessment in a well-structured and quality-controlled manner. The paper concludes by summarising developments based on similarities in the implementation of present and proposed Directives across Europe.