The Wadden Sea can make a valuable contribution in the fight against the climate, pollution, and biodiversity crisis: as a natural, species-rich ecosystem, it is able to store significant amounts of climate gases in salt marshes, seagrass beds, and mudflats. Next to its Outstanding Universal Value all the more reason to protect it for present and future generations. Political representatives of the Wadden Sea countries of Germany and the Netherlands together with the official representative of Denmark now met in Wilhelmshaven, Germany, with the protection of this dynamic landscape at the core of their discussions.
The Trilateral Governmental Conference is a quadrennial meeting of the members of the Trilateral Wadden Sea Cooperation to map their course for the subsequent years until the next conference. This year’s meeting predominantly focused on the global triple crisis of climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution, as well as from increasing human activities. The delegations established that natural ecosystem functions must be preserved through effective protected areas, and climate adaptation measures based on natural approaches are urgently needed. To this end, the Wadden Sea states have agreed on a trilaterally coordinated research programme worth 15 million euros. In the joint research initiative, basic principles and possible measures are to be developed to make the Wadden Sea more climate resilient and to preserve it permanently as a World Heritage Site.
Further, an "Integrating Management Plan for ONE Wadden Sea World Heritage Site" was developed in the course of the past four years, which, in addition to better coordination of the different management approaches in the Wadden Sea states, also aims to address key issues such as fisheries, shipping, tourism, energy and coastal protection in a trilateral and coordinated manner.
Under the motto "Together for ONE Wadden Sea World Heritage Site", the three states and the coastal states of Hamburg, Lower Saxony and Schleswig-Holstein, which are responsible for the Wadden Sea National Parks, met in Wilhelmshaven with more than 250 representatives from local authorities, nature conservation, environmental and user associations, as well as science and youth, and discussed possible solutions on how to sustainably protect and preserve the Outstanding Universal Value of this sensitive and globally unique ecosystem in the face of increasing threats.
The motto of the conference "Together for ONE Wadden Sea World Heritage Site" reflects another focus of the four-year German Presidency. The more intensive involvement of partners in the future and the strengthening of a broad partnership network can also be seen in partnership projects such as the initiative against light pollution (Dark Sky Initiative) by municipalities and environmental associations.
The Wadden Sea countries and the Common Wadden Sea Secretariat also welcomed guests from Mauritania and Senegal and strengthened their long-standing partnership with them to better protect migratory birds along the East Atlantic Flyway. To further intensify the international cooperation, five stakeholders from different backgrounds joined the Wadden Sea Flyway Initiative as new members.
The topic of ship safety was also on the agenda. Experiences from the MSC Zoe accident were presented and it was agreed that, in addition to intensifying the dialogue with shipping and the port industry, the effectiveness of the Shipping Special Area (PSSA) established 20 years ago for the particularly sensitive Wadden Sea should be evaluated and, if necessary, new measures for better protection should be proposed to the International Maritime Organisation.
At the invitation of the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMUV) and organised by the Common Wadden Sea Secretariat, 50 young adults from the three Wadden Sea countries met in Sankt-Peter-Ording in September for a multi-day youth conference on Wadden Sea protection. The participants experienced the Wadden Sea together and exchanged ideas on how their commitment, ideas, and demands of the young generation can be taken up in the Trilateral Wadden Sea Cooperation. The desire for stronger involvement, presented to the ministers during the governmental conference, was taken up by the Wadden Sea countries.
With the conclusion of the Conference, the presidency of the Trilateral Wadden Sea Cooperation was handed over to the Kingdom of Denmark. The newly appointed Chair of the Wadden Sea Board is Anne-Marie Vægter Rasmussen. The now former Chair Prof Karin Lochte was thanked for her dedicated work over the past four years. An extensive joint declaration will be signed after a new Danish government has been settled.