Located to the far West of Western Europe, France has a western maritime coastal zone of more than 3800 km, which is widely influenced by the North-eastern Atlantic. The English Channel, an epi-continental shallow sea with very strong tides, runs along 650 km of the French coast and 1100 km of the English coast. It is also a bio-geographical crossroad encompassing a much wider range of ecological conditions than other European seas. France’s Atlantic coast north of the Gironde estuary is a succession of rocky and sandy shorelines, including a sizeable intertidal zone, a wide continental shelf, and two major estuaries (Loire and Gironde). South of the Gironde, the 260 km of coastline is low, sandy and straight, with a narrowing continental shelf further on South due to the presence of the Cape Breton canyon in the bathyal and abyssal zones. Interface between the continental and oceanic systems, these bordering seas – North Sea, English Channel and Atlantic Ocean – have been the subject of many recent research programmes (the European Mast-FLUXMANCHE and INTERREG programmes; the national coastal environment programme and the LITEAU programme in France), designed to improve comprehension of the functions, production, and dynamics of these seas as well as their future evolution. Given the many conflicting practices in these littoral zones, integrated coastal zone management appears to be essential in order to cope with both natural phenomena, such as the infilling of estuarine zones, cliff erosion, and rising sea levels, and chronic anthropogenic pressures, such as new harbour installations (container dikes, marinas), sea aggregate extraction for human constructions, and offshore wind mill farms. This article provides as complete an overview as possible of the research projects on these bordering seas, both those that have recently been accomplished and those that are currently in progress, in order to highlight the main characteristics of these ecosystems and to underline the future challenges for European marine research in terms of the integrated coastal zone management of these highly significant coastal zones.