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BirdLife Partners call

…to save the Wadden Sea

The Wadden Sea is one of the last true wilderness areas in Northwest Europe. Characterised by vast mudflats, it stretches over three countries: Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands and is a complex of Important Bird Areas (IBAs) which are threatened by human activities. In response, three BirdLife Partners - DOF, NABU and Vogelbescherming Nederland (BirdLife Partners in Denmark, Germany and The Netherlands respectively) - have joined forces to fight for the conservation of this area and have published an ambitious report entitled the: ‘Wadden Sea Vision - A vision for the conservation of a Natural Heritage'.

The Wadden Sea is important for millions of birds. Species such as Red Knot Calidris canutus and Bar-tailed Godwit Limosa lapponica stop in the Wadden Sea to rest and refuel on their migrations between the Arctic and West Africa. The site is also important for species like Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis, Eurasian Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia and Pied Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta, which breed on the salt marshes, beaches and islands found around the Wadden Sea.

Unfortunately the Wadden Sea is threatened by human activities. Industrial developments, large scale fisheries, growing mass tourism, military activities, intensive farming, and the effects of climate change are damaging this dynamic ecosystem. The numbers of some bird species for which the Wadden Sea is of international importance have dropped significantly since 1987. Regular monitoring shows that Common Eider Somateria mollissima, Eurasian Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus and Kentish Plover Charadrius alexandrinus have declined significantly. These birds are highly specialised species, which depend on the healthy functioning of the Wadden Sea’s uniquely varied ecosystem of intertidal mudflats, salt marshes and sand banks. Their plight is a reliable indicator of the declining condition of the Wadden Sea.

DOF, NABU and Vogelbescherming Nederland have now joined forces to fight for the conservation of this area and have presented a new Wadden Sea vision at the 11th trilateral Wadden Sea conference in Germany, setting up their aspirations and ambitious conservation goals.

The BirdLife Wadden Sea vision calls for the implementation of seven conservation measures, to ensure a biologically rich Wadden Sea, where birds and people can prosper together. These measures also include protecting biodiversity by restoring a strong food web based on healthy biogenic structures like shellfish banks and eel grass fields, restoring the unique natural landscape along the coast, letting natural processes have free reign again and guaranteeing undisturbed breeding places and high tide refuges for birds. “Because of its strategic location on such a busy crossroad for migratory birds, focused conservation work by the three countries has a truly global impact for the conservation”, said Boris Barov – BirdLife’s European Conservation Manager.

“With 2010 being the International Year of Biodiversity, it makes even more sense to emphasise again how crucial the Wadden Sea is in saving countless species, including migratory birds” said Fred Wouters - Director of Vogelbescherming Nederland. “Furthermore, some of these measures would allow the area to adapt to sea level rise and other threats posed by climate change”.

“We are alarmed by the threats the Wadden Sea is facing”, said Leif Miller - Executive Director of NABU. “We recently decided to reinforce our long-term activities for the protection of the Wadden Sea”. NABU started applied research on threatened wader species in the Wadden Sea in order to develop adequate management measures.

Over recent years DOF has strongly lobbied the European Commission and its national Government to increase the protection of the Wadden Sea and its species in accordance with the EU Birds Directive”,
said Christain Hjorth - Chairman of DOF. “Both local and national groups are mobilising the press to raise awareness for this crucial area”.

During the last 15 years, Vogelbescherming Nederland has successfully managed to minimise the damaging effects of shellfish fisheries and a new agreement with the Dutch Government, nature organisations and the mussels sector is now in place, which includes a management plan to restore the Wadden Sea ecosystem.

4th July 2014