Wadden Sea Day 2011 highlights

The key role of the fish fauna for the Wadden Sea World Heritage food web. On 25 August 2011, the sixth annual Wadden Sea Day took place in Wilhelmshaven. Over 80 participants from the three Wadden Sea countries, the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark, attended the scientific conference on "Fish in the Wadden Sea - Exploring an Unknown World".

 With this year's topic a very important issue for the Wadden Sea was addressed, which often does not get enough attention. The conference aimed at providing insights in recent research and assessment of monitoring data, identifying research priorities for trilateral projects, and discussing with scientists and managers how trilateral targets on fish could be met.

The unique ecosystem of the Wadden Sea, which for the most part has been inscribed into the UNESCO World Heritage list, is used by fish as spawning, breeding and foraging grounds. The shallow waters of the Wadden Sea serve as an acclimation area and transit route for long-distance migrants from the North Sea to their spawning grounds located in fresh water. The conference further tended to highlight the ecological importance of fish for the Wadden Sea and the importance of the Wadden Sea for its fish inhabitants. The experts also discussed natural and human factors that may influence the development of fish population, reflected in the Wadden Quality Status Report 2009.

The conference marked the first step towards the harmonization of existing monitoring data from all three countries, within which the provision of the necessary measurement data of the monitoring programs must be ensured. The cooperation is particularly important in view of the current legislation and the implementation of EU directives regarding fish. The presentations of leading scientists provided an overview of results from different monitoring programs, management programs, as well as already completed research projects. Overall, results of long-term research projects indicated changes both in seasonal composition and abundance of different fish populations in several Wadden Sea regions. According to the assessments of these findings, some of these changes might be induced by climatic changes. Further detected changing migration behaviors and resident times could cause a mismatch in predator-prey-abundance in food webs. Based on these results it will be possible to close certain knowledge gaps and reveal the areas, where further research is required, e.g. fish population dynamics and food web interactions. Furthermore, the experts gave recommendations for future management issues concerning fish in the Wadden Sea, like the restoration of habitats in order to promote conditions for unhindered migration between the sea and inland waters and improvement of the physical conditions in river systems for diadromous fish.

"There is a large amount of research concerning fish in the separate areas of the Wadden Sea. One of the main tasks of the trilateral cooperation is to combine these data like a puzzle in order to obtain a comprehensive picture of the fish trends and to determine the factors that influence them," - says Jens Enemark, Head of the Common Wadden Sea Secretariat. - "This conference has suggested further areas that require intensified scientific cooperation between the Wadden Sea countries and introduced new tasks for the cooperation?.

More background information and all presentations are available at the CWSS website.