Ecoregion Conservation of the Wadden Sea
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The Wadden Sea, Europe's largest coastal wetland, is the shallowest part of the WWF Global 200 Ecoregion North-East Atlantic Shelf. WWF's Ecoregion Conservation (ERC) project aims to develop and implement aCredit: P. Prokosch long-term Vision and Conservation Plan for the Wadden Sea built upon the Common Future of the Wadden Sea memorandum of 1991. The underlying approach of this project is Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM), hence socio-economic aspects play a key role. Coastal protection in the light of climate change and sea level rise is considered as a focal issue of concern. Oil pollution from shipping, inputs of nutrients and toxics from land-based and offshore sources, impacts from tourism, agriculture, shellfish fisheries and large scale constructions are recognised as crucial management and policy issues within the subregion.

Due to the increasing pressure on natural resources and ecological processes the governments of the three coastal countries (The Netherlands, Germany and Denmark) started national initiatives to protect the Wadden Sea two decades ago. This resulted in the establishment of the Wildlife and Nature Reserve in Denmark, the Wadden Sea Memorandum and Nature Reserve in the Netherlands and three National Parks in Germany. Since 1978 the Governments of the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark agreed to co-operate across borders and to achieve a co-ordinated and comprehensive conservation and management of the complete area. The Trilateral Wadden Sea Co-operation (TWC) - based on regular ministerial meetings and declarations - provides the framework for international and national conservation and management of the Wadden Sea.

WWF and partner NGOs in Denmark and the Netherlands share observer status at the Trilateral Governmental Conferences on the Protection of the Wadden Sea (TGC). International dialogue between scientists and NGOs constitutes another co-operative element, resulting in increased commitment from participating organisations and helping to strengthen co-operation between the three countries. Interregional co-operation is steadily improving throughout and beyond the area. The recently adopted Wadden Sea Plan (1997) entails political agreements with regard to common policy and management of the Wadden Sea. Important parts of the Wadden Sea qualify for nomination or have been designated as protected areas due to the EU Habitat and Bird Directives.

Credit: Wild Life/ K.E. HeersAlthough progress has been made over the last two decades in terms of legal protection and international co-operation, many issues of concern remain and further efforts will be necessary to protect the ecosystem Wadden Sea. The Wadden Sea illustrates the importance of integrating marine protected areas into the management of entire coastal and adjacent offshore regions: with regard to the landwards catchment there is an obvious need to promote improved environmental management within the wider drainage basins that discharge into the Wadden Sea and within the Wadden Sea itself. In order to maintain the ecological processes between the Wadden Sea and adjacent areas of the North Sea, there is an urgent need to consider the designation of offshore marine protected areas and Natura 2000 sites. WWF calls for the establishment of a Particularly Sensitive Sea Area (PSSA) to prevent further damage and mitigate environmental risks from shipping.

The ERC project is to develop a transboundary communications strategy, enhance policy reform, promote stakeholder partnerships and facilitate constituency building. It serves as WWF's contact point and representation in relation to the Trilateral Wadden Sea Conferences and the Common Wadden Sea Secretariat.