Wadden Sea conservation across borders - how to get it fit for the future

Wilhelmshaven - The 12th Wadden Sea Symposium gives recommendations to the politicians

At the end of the 12th International Scientific Wadden Sea Symposium in Wilhelmshaven, the over 270 participants underlined the importance of closer cooperation on the protection of the Wadden Sea. "The symposium has shown that we have to enhance cross-border cooperation considerably to protect the Wadden Sea's natural structure and functioning" says Jens Enemark, secretary general of the Common Wadden Sea Secretariat (CWSS) in Wilhelmshaven.

The symposium resulted in clear recommendations for the decision makers in policy. The recommendations are to be taken into consideration in the preparation of the next Trilateral Governmental Conference on Sylt in March 2010. The symposium was organized by the German Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear, Safety, the National Park Administrations (Niedersachsen, Hamburg, Schleswig-Holstein Wadden Sea ), and the Common Wadden Sea Secretariat (CWSS).

Since 1975, when the first symposium was held, global changes have occurred which have affected the Wadden Sea as a marine habitat of international importance significantly. "Climate change and the subsequent changes in species composition are issues of concern which have to be dealt with by science and policy" says Wim Wolff (Universiteit Groningen) who initiated the first symposium in 1975. A main demand by the researchers is therefore to increase the resilience of the ecosystem. Management should aim to restore natural dynamics and geomorphological conditions in the Wadden Sea in order to allow the system to better adapt to accelerated sea level rise.

"To reach solutions for the entire ecosystem we have to cooperate across borders" says Karsten Reise (Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar- und Maritime Research, Wadden Sea Station Sylt). This means on the one hand to also protect the adjacent off-shore conservation areas, because there is a strong relationship between the Wadden Sea and these areas for fish and marine mammals. "On the other hand, an international cooperation effort is required to prevent introduction and spreading of alien species in the Wadden Sea."

The experts concluded that the various EU Directives, which are relevant for the protection of the Wadden Sea, haven not been tuned sufficiently. A further harmonization is necessary which could also be an example for other European conservation areas. In general, research and monitoring in the Wadden Sea have to be intensified further. "The states should not restrict themselves to minimum requirements resulting from the EU Directives as this does not provide sufficient information for a proper and scientifically sound ecosystem management of the Wadden Sea"

An important milestone of international cooperation is the "Memorandum of Understanding" which was signed between the Korean Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs and the Trilateral Wadden Sea Cooperation at the symposium. It provides a foundation for a cooperation of tidal flat experts of these states. Korea has a tidal flat area with similar functions as the Wadden Sea and the cooperation has the aim to exchange knowledge and experiences between the two regions.

The results of scientific research over the last 30 years have also considerably contributed to support the nomination of the Wadden Sea as World Heritage Site. A decision of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee will be taken in June 2009.