Protection and management

The Wadden Sea is a natural area of global importance shared by three countries and surrounded by a significant population. Key threats include fishery, industrial facilities, harbours and maritime traffic, residential and tourism development and climate change. It is therefore imperative to ensure that the protection and conservation of the Wadden Sea is an important feature of the planning and regulation of use.

The Trilateral Wadden Sea Cooperation has managed and protected this valuable ecosystem since 1978. Today, almost the entire Wadden Sea coast is protected as national parks and nature reserves. The management system is a combination of the national management systems and The SIMP Integrated Management Plan for ONE Wadden Sea World Heritage (SIMP) and Wadden Sea Plan (WSP) implemented by the responsible authorities.


The SIMP Integrated Management Plan for ONE Wadden Sea World Heritage (SIMP)

When accepting the extension of the Wadden Sea World Heritage property in 2014, the World Heritage Committee assigned the TWSC with the task to develop a single integrated management plan. Politically, the Cooperation committed to this task and set the frame for the development of The SIMP Integrated Management Plan for One Wadden Sea World Heritage (SIMP) in the Leeuwarden Declaration in 2018.

The development process of the SIMP involved site managers, policy makers, and experts within and beyond the TWSC’s working groups. A consultation phase with the advisory boards, policy council, the Wadden Sea Team and the Wadden Sea Forum was the final input to refining the plan. The SIMP was adopted with the signing of the Wilhelmshaven Declaration on 15 May, 2023. A microsite with further information is under construction.

What is the purpose?

The SIMP’s main purpose is to support the continuous improvement of coordinated management for the conservation of the transboundary Wadden Sea World Heritage site. Thus, the focus of the SIMP is the protection and maintenance of the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV).

What is the status of the SIMP?

The SIMP is a political agreement of the Trilateral Wadden Sea Cooperation, meaning it is a legally non-binding document of common political interest. Existing policy documents and legally binding instruments at the trilateral, regional, national, or local level will not be altered or affected by this plan.

What is the relation to the Wadden Sea Plan?

The SIMP does not alter existing national or trilateral plans or policies, thus it is complementary to the Wadden Sea Plan. The SIMP acts as an umbrella for existing plans and policies and provides information on how these are implemented trilaterally for the main nature conservation management issues.

Guiding Principle, Vision and Objectives of the Trilateral Wadden Sea Cooperation and Management Principles as basis for the SIMP
Guiding Principle, Vision and Objectives of the Trilateral Wadden Sea Cooperation and Management Principles of the Wadden Sea Plan as the basis for the SIMP.


Wadden Sea Plan (WSP)

The Trilateral Wadden Sea Plan (WSP) is the common policy and management plan for the protection and sustainable management of the Wadden Sea Area. It is also the management plan for the Wadden Sea World Heritage Site and thus the foundation for preserving its Outstanding Universal Value. Adopted in 1997 (Stade Declaration) and updated in 2010 (Sylt Declaration), the WSP includes the Cooperation’s common vision, principles, policies and constitutes a framework for measures.

A unique and basic feature of the Wadden Sea Plan is that it aims to conserve the full scale of habitats that belong to a natural and dynamic Wadden Sea. Each of these habitats, for which common trilateral targets have been adopted, needs a certain quality (natural dynamics, absence of anthropogenic disturbance, absence of pollution), which can be reached by proper management of the area.

The overall aim of the WSP is to implement the Cooperation’s objectives as laid down in the Joint Declaration: the preservation of the natural ecosystem, its functions and characteristic biodiversity, the resilience to climate change and other impacts, maintenance of the landscape and cultural heritage, sustainable use as defined by the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity and the EU Habitats Directive, and public support for the protection of the Wadden Sea.


National protection and management

The Danish Wadden Sea is protected through comprehensive provisions of the Statutory Order on the Wadden Sea Nature and Wildlife Reserve, municipal planning and administration of the international protection areas in the Wadden Sea region. In 2010, the Danish Wadden Sea National Park was established. It is responsible for the implementation of the National Park Plan, which contains guidelines and objectives for the National Park’s nature, landscape and cultural heritage values.

In Germany, the coastal federal states of Hamburg, Lower Saxony and Schleswig-Holstein are in charge of the implementation of the Federal Nature Conservation Act which sets the framework for establishing nature reserves and national parks. The World Heritage Site includes three national parks: the National Park Schleswig-Holsteinisches Wattenmeer (established in 1985), the National Park Hamburgisches Wattenmeer (established in 1990) and the National Park Niedersächsisches Wattenmeer (established in 1986). The main objectives of the national parks are to protect the Wadden Sea and to allow natural processes to take place with a minimum degree of disturbances and other detrimental effects of human activities. Each national park is protected under a National Park Act by nature protection law of the respective federal state. The three national park authorities are responsible for the implementation of the respective legislation and management of the site.

In the Netherlands, protection combines a unique national physical planning approach, the Key Planning Decision Wadden Sea, 3rd Policy Document Wadden Sea (PKB, since 1980), with a designation of the Wadden Sea under the Nature Conservation Act 1998, supported by additional designation such as the Flora and Fauna Act. Together with the Ecological Main Structure (EHS), they form the basis for protection and management of the Dutch part of the Wadden Sea. The PKB defines the overall objectives of conservation, management and use of the Wadden Sea and is binding for all state, regional and local authorities.


EU legislation

The European Union legislation in the field of the environment is of specific significance for the Wadden Sea and has increased in importance during the past two decades. Of the comprehensive list of environmental legislation, the Birds and Habitats Directives, forming the Natura 2000 network, and the Water Framework Directive and Marine Strategy Framework Directive are the most relevant ones


International law

The Wadden Sea is covered by a number of instruments of international law. The 1972 World Heritage Convention forms the basis of all World Heritage-related activities concerning the Wadden Sea. Moreover, a number of other multilateral environmental agreements concluded under the auspices of the United Nations also apply: the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) and its daughter Agreements, i.e. the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Waterbirds (AEWA), the Agreement on the Conservation of Small Cetaceans in the Baltic, North East Atlantic, Irish and North Seas (ASCOBANS), and Agreement on the Conservation of Seals in the Wadden Sea, for which CWSS provides secretariat services. The Ramsar Convention (Convention on Wetlands of International Importance), the Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats (Bern Convention) and the Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic (OSPAR) are also of relevance for the Wadden Sea.