Development of effective metabarcoding-based tools for ecological assessment requires more than just detailed knowledge of ecology and molecular genetics. There is also a need to understand the context within which they will be used, and for the organisation that uses it to understand the techniques involved and, more especially, how the data that are produced differs from that generated by traditional ecological methods. Lessons learnt during the development of a metabarcoding tool for phytobenthos in the UK are set out in this paper. This attempted to develop a molecular “mirror” of the existing light microscopy-based approach to ecological assessment. Although this conservative approach does not exploit the full potential of metabarcoding data, it does mean that benchmarks exist against which performance and data can be judged. However, the pace of developments within molecular ecology means that regulators will need to find ways of incorporating new scientific insights whilst, at the same time, ensuring a stable regulatory regime. Installation of a metabarcoding technique within a regulatory organisation, in other words, is more than a transaction in which one approach is switched for another. A deeper transformation of the organisation is required.