Serious oil spill in the Waddensee

Serious oil spill in the Waddensee

18 February 1998

The following report is prompted by a WWF press release which we received in the Ramsar Bureau earlier today. The Bureau is contacting the Administrative Authority responsible for implementation of the Convention in Germany and requesting further information.

There has been a serious spillage of fuel oil from a cargo ship which ran aground, after an on-board fire which killed one person, in the German sector of the Wadden Sea (a vast intertidal wetland complex shared by Denmark, Germany and The Netherlands, covering some 10,000 sq. kms). Most of the Wadden Sea is included in eight Ramsar sites designated by the three Contracting Parties concerned. The Bahamas-registered transporter ran aground on the edge of a National Park and the Ramsar site known as 'Schleswig-Holsteinisches Wattenmeer' (i.e. the part of the Wadden Sea which is within the German Land, or province, of Schleswig-Holstein).

Due to difficult weather conditions, which hampered salvage operations, fuel oil leaked from the ship for a couple of weeks and has been spread within the Ramsar site by wind and tidal action. Although it appears not all of the 600 tons of oil on board was spilt, and that the leak has now been contained, the effects have already been disastrous. 20,000 oiled birds (mostly seaducks and shorebirds) have been reported so far in what is Europe's most important wetland for migrating and wintering water birds. The Wadden Sea is also a major fishery and fish nursery, and an important centre for recreation and tourism. It will clearly take longer to see what impact the spill may have on these values and uses.

The following contacts have been provided by WWF: Stephan Lutter, WWF North-East Atlantic Programme,   or Hans-Ulrich Roesner, WWF Germany, Wadden Sea Project Office,

-- reported by Tim Jones, Regional Coordinator for Europe,

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