New impetus for the protection of the Wadden Sea


The Wadden Sea is Europe’s largest Wetland of International Importance covering over one million hectares of tidal mudflats between the North Sea, a chain of islands, often with specifically adapted human settlements and land use practices, and the coast line of the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark.

The Wadden Sea is also Europe’s transboundary wetland ecosystem where formal international cooperation was first to start with a Trilateral Governmental Conference held in the Hague in 1978. By that time, only the German Federal State of Lower Saxony had already designated its part of the Waddensea for the Ramsar List. Later in 1987, a Common Wadden Sea Secretariat was established in Wilhelmshaven to support, initiate, facilitate and coordinate the activities of the collaboration.

In 1982, the 3rd Trilateral Governmental Conference in Copenhagen adopted a Joint Declaration specifying the intention to coordinate the activities and measures to implement a number of international legal instruments in the field of natural environmental protection, amongst other the Ramsar Convention and the EC Birds Directive, for a comprehensive protection of the Wadden Sea region as a whole, including its flora and fauna. More recently, on 17-18 March 2010, the 11th Trilateral Governmental Conference was hosted by Germany at Westerland on the Wadden Sea island of Sylt, next to the Danish border, attended by over 130 participants, including the national Ramsar authorities and the Secretariat of the Convention.

The partners adopted a management plan for the entire Wadden Sea region to support decisive action against a number of invasive alien species and in response to major challenges resulting from the effects of climate change in the coastal area (sea level rise, shore line protection, etc.). The three Governments agreed on a joint political programme for the coming years geared towards better protection of the common ecosystem and to promote their successful model also at international scale. The latter was underlined by the presence of a strong delegation from the Republic of Korea, headed by the Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs, with whom the Wadden Sea partners formally cooperate since 2009. Indeed Korean tidal flats and those of the Wadden Sea belong to the largest and most important tidal mudflat ecosystems in the world. Through their collaboration, the European and Korean partners wish to consolidate and extend their cooperation with regard to the exchange of scientific knowledge and experience in the field of ecosystem protection and management.

During the Conference, the Ministers signed a new Joint Declaration and a new administrative Agreement for the Common Wadden Sea Secretariat. A newly established Wadden Sea Board will provide strategic leadership for the Wadden Sea Cooperation. The Board will be comprised of representatives from the national Governments, including the three German Federal States, and two representatives from conservation NGOs and the Wadden Sea Forum, an independent platform of stakeholders in the region. With the conclusion of the Sylt Conference, the turning presidency of the Wadden Sea Cooperation passed to Denmark for the coming years. The texts adopted by the Conference are available on the website of the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety:

In her address to the conference participants, the German Parliamentary State Secretary for the Environment, Ms Ursula Heinen-Esser, made reference to the existing, adjacent Wadden Sea Ramsar sites (two in the Netherlands, five in three German Federal States, one in Denmark) and encouraged the countries to notify the Ramsar Secretariat about their wish to have their common, ecologically coherent, wetland management recognized through the designation of a “Transboundary Ramsar Site” that would become a substantial addition to the existing twelve such transboundary sites). This would indeed provide global visibility and recognition for the well-advanced trilateral cooperation in the Wadden Sea that started over thirty years ago.

The Conference concluded with a visit and reception in the interactive visitor centre “Naturgewalten”.Participants walked “through the Wadden Sea Plan”, from the North Sea beach up the shifting dunes in the northern part of Sylt.

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Number of » Contracting Parties: 168 Sites designated for the
» List of Wetlands of
International Importance
2,186 Total surface area of designated sites (hectares): 208,674,247

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