|The North-East Atlantic Ocean provides a diverse range of coastal and offshore marine habitats including tidal mud flats, fjords and steep cliffs - from the shallow North Sea to the continental shelf break and deep sea. Millions of migratory waterfowl and waders depend on feeding and breeding grounds along the East Atlantic Flyway. The sea is rich in marine wildlife - sharks, seals, cetaceans and seabirds as well as commercially important fish stocks. There are highly productive plankton and bottom-dwelling communities, kelp forests, sea grass beds and even cold water coral reefs.
But this fragile marine environment is at risk. Marine wildlife is threatened by toxic industrial chemicals, pesticides and nutrients which enter the sea from land-based sources via rivers and the atmosphere. This pollution is exacerbated by discharges of oil and chemicals from offshore platforms and merchant shipping. Fish stocks and marine ecosystems have come under heavy pressure from overfishing, by-catch, discards and damaging fishing gear. Coastal and marine habitats are increasingly degraded by harbour construction, industrial development, flood defence and oil, gas, sand and gravel extraction from the sea bed.
The WWF North-East Atlantic Programme aims to protect and, where necessary, restore biodiversity and maintain the natural productivity and status of the North-East Atlantic marine environment. Its special focus is on the land-sea interface, land-based activities in the catchment area and commonly shared resources. The Coordination Office serves as a contact point for WWF's work in relation to key intergovernmental organisations such as the OSPAR Commission for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic, the International Conference on the Protection of the North Sea (NSC) and the Trilateral Wadden Sea Co-operation (TWC). Through lobbying and advocacy in these frameworks, WWF has initiated significant commitments to keep the ocean clean, to green fisheries policy and to conserve biodiversity at sea. WWF is actively campaigning to have these pledges put into practice and through its field projects, WWF strives to demonstrate how this can be achieved.