Serious oil spill in the Waddensee -- press release from WWF

Serious oil spill in the Waddensee -- press release from WWF

20 November 1998

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For Release on Tuesday, 17 November, 1998

WWF Calls For Designating Wadden Sea as a Particularly Sensitive Sea Area

GLAND, Switzerland -- The conservation organization WWF has called on countries bordering the North Sea to declare the Wadden Sea a Particularly Sensitive Sea Area. Europe’s largest coastal wetland - the Wadden Sea - is struggling to recover from the ecological disaster caused by fuel leak that has just stopped from the cargo vessel Pallas, shipwrecked south west of the German island Amrum end of last month.

About 20,000 oiled seabirds and waders have been recorded up to now. The oil spill is not only threatening the highly vulnerable mud flats in the Wadden Sea National Parks but also putting a proposed harbour porpoise sanctuary as well as a grey seal colony at stake. Putting out the fire onboard Pallas and unloading fuel oil is expected to take several weeks.

"This oil spill is an ecological disaster for Europe's largest coastal wetland," said Stephan Lutter, Head of WWF's North-East Atlantic Programme."The tremendous damage that can be caused by a limited amount of fuel oil from a normal cargo vessel gives an idea of the worst case scenario to be expected in case an oil tanker runs aground in the same area."

The large nature reserves of the Wadden Sea along the coastline of the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark, border the southern North Sea - one of the busiest shipping routes in the world. Shipping accidents with oil tankers, hazardous cargos and normal cargo vessels have been seriously impacting the area. Moreover, an increasing number of vessels are flying ‘flags of convenience’ which do not comply with best available environmental standards.

"There are too many loopholes in international ship safety regulations and salvage procedures," Lutter said."It clearly runs against common sense that protective and salvage measures cannot be imposed on a vessel in the vicinity of a highly sensitive and vulnerable ecoregion like the Wadden Sea. The wider Wadden Sea area qualifies to be designated a Particularly Sensitive Sea Area."

WWF proposes a number of precautionary measures to be applied to adjacent waters in order to safeguard the Wadden Sea Ecoregion as a whole. In particular, shipping regulations such as routeing measures, the salvage mechanisms and transboundary cooperation in case of emergencies need to be tightened up. WWF is also calling for additional salvage tug capacity to be based in the German Bight.

WWF will be raising these issues at the forthcoming Meeting of the Committee of North Sea Senior Officials (CONSSO) in Oslo, Norway (19-20 November).


Contact: Stephan Lutter, WWF North-East Atlantic Programme, Tel office +49 421 65846-22 or mobile +49 171 7015346. Fax: +49 421 65846-12. E-mail: or Hans-Ulrich Roesner, WWF Germany, Wadden Sea Project Office, Tel office +49 4841 62073 or mobile +49 171 7010383. Fax +49 4841 4736. E-mail:

panda.gif (879 bytes)Further background from WWF