European Maritime States already have commitments to protect species and habitats and maintain quality standards in coastal and offshore waters. These are a direct response to environmental legislation in Europe and commitments made to biodiversity conservation in OSPAR and at the World Summit on Sustainable Development. An integrated approach to management requires that these are consistent with the requirements for sustainable development, and include wider social considerations and active stakeholder participation. This review describes a hierarchical framework that incorporates the marine objectives and delivery statements of ecological, social and economic sectors. The framework leads from the UK's guiding principles for sustainable development, through visionary statements and strategic goals for high level delivery, to operational objectives and statements of action which deliver management. Parts of this hierarchy can already be populated for the UK, especially those at the higher levels. At the operational level, however, there is less clarity. The review shows that, despite some gaps, existing commitments for ecological components of the ecosystem are transparent and generally conform to this framework, due largely to high profile government funding of environmental protection and science and a single national vision for the marine environment. Specific objectives for six components of the ecosystem were developed; benthic habitats, seabirds and mammals, phytoplankton and zooplankton, fish, and physical/chemical quality of the water and atmosphere. The objectives included some that avoided limits and others that aimed to achieve targets, and for management to be effective it will be important to have a common understanding of how these can together be interpreted and made operational. In a review of 13 social and economic sectors, few provided a clear breakdown of objectives leading from a high level vision or a sustainable development principle. Six sectors did not have high level government targets for production or other measures of sectoral performance. Such commercial operations generally determine their own operational delivery targets based on market forces. Recent proposals in Europe to create an integrated framework for social, economic and environmental activities will need to carefully balance the development of a strong and competitive marine economy with existing international obligations to environmental protection.