The first meeting of the European Marine World Heritage Sites aims at closer cooperation

The goal of more intensive cooperation brought together 25 experts from four European marine World Heritage Sites to the National Park Administration, Tönning, on 15 and 16 April.“The meeting was very successful and will result into tighter cooperation between the sites in future”, says Jens Enemark, the Secretary of the Common Wadden Sea Secretariat, “We would like to launch a common project that will unfold the potential of the World Heritage status as a placemaking catalyst for the regional development and conservation. Thereby, we will appreciate the global responsibility that arises from the World Heritage nomination”.

At the meeting, the participants from Sweden (High Coast), Finland (Kvarken Archipelago), England (Jurassic Coast) and Scotland (St. Kilda) as well as from the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark (Wadden Sea) exchanged their positive experience that they gained  their nature sites worldwide and locally in environmental education and in sustainable tourism development. The examples from various European regions have demonstrated the great potential of the World Heritage status for nature, cultural identity and regional economy. They have also proven that the Trilateral Wadden Sea Cooperation with its cross-border projects and activities is on the right track. 

The German-Dutch Wadden Sea, that was inscribed into the World Heritage list in June 2009, was the “youngest” World Heritage property present. “Therefore, it was a special honour for us to host the very first meeting of the European marine World Heritage Sites here in the Schleswig-Holstein Wadden Sea National Park”, - states Dr. Christiane Gätje from the National Park Administration. “At the meeting, we have acquired exceptional and practice-oriented impulses for our work, for example, for the improved use of environmental friendly transport and for the development of tourism offers, directly related to the Wadden Sea”. The workshop participants also discussed how to interpret the ecological and geological features of the sites in a better way.

The meeting was commonly organized by the Common Wadden Sea Secretariat and the Schleswig-Holstein Wadden Sea National Park Administration in cooperation with the UNESCO World Heritage Center in Paris in the framework of the Interreg IVB project PROWAD (www.prowad.org). The participant also had a chance to get an impression of the Wadden Sea World Heritage and National Park, by visiting St.Peter-Ording and Hallig Hooge. In the National Park Center Multimar Wattforum, the participants experienced how the Wadden Sea is being communicated with the help of interactive technologies and multimedia.

Out of 962 World Heritage sites 46 are marine sites, seven of which are situated in Europe. In the framework of the UNESCO World Heritage Marine Programme these sites work closely together for the protection and management of their properties (http://whc.unesco.org/en/marine-programme).

Photo: © Sam Rose

Wadden Sea breeding birds at risk

Latest trends in breeding bird numbers show that 2/3 of all internationally monitored species breeding in the Wadden Sea have declining numbers. The trend over the past ten years even indicates that the rate of decline has recently accelerated, e.g. in species like Oystercatcher, Avocet, and Arctic Tern. Breeding birds like Ruff, Dunlin and Common Snipe are now on the brink of extinction. If the current negative trends continue, more species are threatened to disappear from the Wadden Sea. e.g. Hen Harrier.

Avocets © Bo L. Christiansen  
  Black-tailed Godwit © Bo L. Christiansen

On 18 April breeding bird experts and conservation managers of the Wadden Sea countries Denmark, The Netherlands and Germany came together at the International Wadden Sea workshop “Breeding Birds in Trouble”. Aims of the workshop was to identify the most pressing issues, discuss causes, solutions and consequences and take initiative to develop an action plan, which will give practical advice on proper management of specific breeding bird species and their habitats. The workshop stated that in many species, a low breeding success is a major cause for the declining numbers. Reasons are diverse, but many species face predation and flooding, in combination with, depleted food stocks, disturbances, changes of habitats and specific local reasons. According to the experts the most promising and practicable measures against further declining of breeding bird species are restoration of the natural water regime in grasslands and saltmarshes for meadow birds, reduction of the negative impact of predators on Wadden Sea islands and limitation of disturbance in important breeding areas.

Recommendations and the action plan developed by the workshop will be forwarded to the 12th Trilateral Governmental Wadden Sea Conference in Denmark, February 2014.

The workshop was initiated by the Joint Monitoring Breeding Bird Group in the framework of the Trilateral Wadden Sea Cooperation.

Cooperation with West Africa: Wadden Sea visits Banc d´Arguin

Gerold Lüerßen and Jens Enemark, CWSS, visited the Banc d´Arguin, Mauritania, 9-14 March 2013, by invitation of the director of the UNESCO World Heritage Center as part of an official UNESCO mission lead by Fanny Douvere of the Marine Program. The objectives of the mission were to explore a closer cooperation between the Wadden Sea World Heritage and the Banc d´Arguin and the possibility of the designation of the Banc d´Arguin as a Particularly Sensitive Sea Area (PSSA) similar to the Wadden Sea.

The Banc d´Arguin is the most important wintering area for migratory birds passing through the Wadden Sea. It hosts a winter population of some 2.5-3 million birds. The site was already inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1989, 20 years before the Wadden Sea. It is a tidal area very similar to the Wadden Sea. The National Park covers an area of some 12,000 km2 of which half is the marine area and the other half is a desert. A major difference between the Banc d’ Arguin and the Wadden Sea is that the mudflat area is significantly smaller, some 63,000 ha. compared to some 450,000 ha. The mudflats are all covered with dense beautiful sea grass. It is still a bit of a puzzle how such a small mudflat area can sustain so many migratory birds during winter time.

The visit to the park was led by the director Maître Aly Ould Mohamed Salem. It included a travel along more than half of the coast line of the park including a sailing tour into the park. During the three days visit it was possible to obtain a reasonable impression of the property, its importance for biodiversity, and the development threats and management challenges. The property is a rather pristine area with a high level of protection that strictly regulates human activities, and a good management system based on-location management units. Fishery is e.g. only allowed with a limited number of non-motorized fishing boats for the inhabitants of the area, the Imraguen people. The enforcement of the restriction is controlled by boats belonging to the park administration. Information centers can be found in the park as well as a new large one which has been built at the highway just outside of the park.

There are, however, a number of activities predominantly at the fringe of the property which cause concern. These include the building of a new road into the park in the southern part, oil exploration off-shore, and gold mining in the northwestern part outside of the park where also a large town (Cham) is being built. Further mentioned should be the apparent increasing fishery outside the property.
It was exiting to visit the Banc d´Arguin and to watch at close range the migratory birds which we share and which thrive in their winter quarters at Banc d’Arguin, a tangible evidence of the intimate link between the Banc d´Arguin and the Wadden Sea World Heritage properties.

Photos: © Gerold Lüerßen

Field Research exploring the sales situation for merchandising in Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands

In the context of the transnational project PROWAD, a Concept Study on Merchandising for the Brand “Wadden Sea World Heritage” aims at evaluating the potential and practicability of a merchandising program to promote the Wadden Sea World Heritage brand.

As part of the study, a field research was carried out in the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark, in late January 2013, by Prof. Andreas Mack, an independent consultant to the project, who was accompanied on the field research in the Netherlands by Sjon de Haan (Aanjager Waddenzee Werelderfgoed) and in Germany and Denmark by Anja Domnick (PROWAD Tourism Manager at the CWSS).

The field research visited national park visitor centers and houses and their counterparts in the Netherlands and Denmark, as well as selected tourist information centers, museums and gift shops throughout the entire Wadden Sea region.

The trip showed great differences in settings for merchandising shops along the Wadden Sea region. For the national park centers and houses as well as for their Dutch and Danish counter-parts, the role of merchandising is growing. Most shop managers and proprietors have been in the business for many years. They have started or taken over an existing shop and step-by-step developed a successful offer.

Expectations towards a Wadden Sea World Heritage merchandising program are high. The program is expected to raise quality with sustainability standards and more educational value. Ideally products should deliver a consistent message.

The findings from the field research will feed into a further in-depth analysis and will be taken into account when defining a framework for an overall Wadden-Sea-wide merchandising concept to increase awareness for the values of World Heritage and raise its profile and visibility.

More information can be found at www.prowad.org

Wadden Sea as an example of successful cross-border cooperation at the international conference in Strasbourg

Organized by the city of Strasbourg and the Association of the French World Heritage Sites within the framework of the 11th Meeting of the Association of French World Heritage properties, Strasbourg hosted an international conference on “Shared Heritage”.

The conference focused on exchange and dialogue on the item of shared heritage and the construction of cross-border heritage.

Beside the central element of construction, identification and protection of a world heritage site, the item of sharing and participating is an important part of the process of identification by local communities and the joint implementation of the management, which is needed for its conservation. World Heritage can be a tool for international understanding in our increasing multicultural society. Strasbourg, which became a European capital after a painful past marked by conflicts between nations, is a key subject for understanding these processes. More than 150 participants were present at this conference and 15 speakers highlighted the item from different national and international perspectives.

The Task Group World Heritage was invited to speak about the “Wadden Sea World Heritage, a success story of international cooperation protecting a unique ecosystem” which was done by the TG-member Klaus Koßmagk-Stephan (Germany, Schleswig-Holstein). He pointed out that efforts and successes of more than 30 years of trilateral cooperation on the protection of the Wadden Sea were a precondition for inscription on the World Heritage list. The World Heritage status opens up new perspectives, underlining the joint responsibility of all partners to ensure that the integrity of the World Heritage site is also met in the future.

The program of the conference can be downloaded here.

Great Barrier Reef meets Wadden Sea

In the framework of the UNESCO World Heritage Marine Program, Jon Day from the Great Barrier Marine Park Authority in Australia visited the Dutch-German Wadden Sea World Heritage from 2 to 5 May 2013. For over 20 years, he has been working in various positions as manager and director at the Great Barrier Reef and has also been member of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee for several years.
The aim of his visit was to exchange experiences in protecting and management of large-scale ecosystems. „There are many similarities between the Wadden Sea and the Great Barrier Reef“ concluded Jon Day “although the Reef is almost 35-times bigger than the Wadden Sea and features completely different marine habitats and species.”

Both sites have an over 30-year experience in nature conservation resulting in a similar approach of management and participation of stakeholders and local communities. They also face similar challenges such climate change, pollution, marine litter, tourism, fisheries, shipping, and coastal development. As in the Wadden Sea, research and monitoring have been instrumental for decades to support policy and management of the area.

Jon Day also presented recent monitoring results which gave reason for serious concern on the future of the Great Barrier Reef. A multitude of impacts, caused by climate change, inputs of pollutants from the mainland, and severe damages from heavy storms, resulted in a negative outlook for the reef.

“This visit underlines that the World Heritage Convention can be an effective instrument to protect our heritage for future generations” says Jens Enemark, Head of the Common Wadden Sea Secretariat in Wilhelmshaven. “We are closely working together with our colleagues from the other 44 marine World Heritage sites and are taking over the responsibilities in protecting our heritage for the world”.

Jon Day visited the Common Wadden Sea Secretariat, the National Park Administration Lower Saxon Wadden Sea, the World Heritage Visitor Centre, all located in Wilhelmshaven, and met the Chairman of the Dutch Wadden Academy and a representative of the Program “Rich Waddenzee” in Leeuwarden. A trip on the inspection boat to the Dutch Wadden Sea and a mudflat walk to the German island of Baltrum concluded his visit before he left the Wadden Sea to visit the World Heritage site of the West-Norwegian Fjords.

Photo (from left to right): Jon Day, Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, Juliana Köhler, Wadden Sea World Heritage Visitor Centre, Jens Enemark Common Wadden Sea Secretariat.

Ringelsganstage: Schutzstation Wattenmeer celebrates 50 years

On 20 April 2013, the “Ringelganstage” (Brent geese days) were opened for the 16th time on Hallig Hooge. The “Ringelganstage” is an event to celebrate the brent geese present in the 10,000th on the halligen in April-May before they leave for the arctic. The “Ringelsganstage” is an event commonly organized by nature conservation organizations and the tourism marketing and aims to enhance the knowledge about the brent geese and the Wadden Sea and to promote their protection and the enjoyment of the area. This year’s golden feather was awarded to Harry Diedrichsen from Hooge who has promoted the cooperation on conservation on the Hallig for many years.

In conjunction with the opening of the “Ringelganstage”, the Schutzstation Wattenmeer celebrated its 50th  anniversary. The Schutzstation Wattenmeer is one of the oldest private nature conservation organizations located in the Wadden Sea area, probably the oldest one advocating a comprehensive protection of the Wadden Sea. It operates basically through 20 stations and information centers located along the Wadden Sea coast, on islands and halligen of Schleswig-Holstein. In addition to its information and awareness work it also manages areas within the Schleswig-Holstein National Park in agreement with the National Park authority. The 90 staff members are the backbone of the work of the station, of which most are voluntaries of the “Bundesfreiwilligendienst” as well as the “Freiwilliges Ökologisches Jahr (FÖJ)”. Hundreds of them have passed through the organization over the years and have become long-lasting advocated for the Wadden Sea.

A brochure on the history of the association “50 Jahre ehrenamtliches Engagement für das Weltnaturerbe Wattenmeer” has been published by the Schutzstation and can be ordered at its office http://www.schutzstation-wattenmeer.de/

Photo 1: Golden feathers award winners: Harry Diedrichsen, Hallig Hooge (second row, left)
Painting winners:  Anna Pereira de Sousa (front row, left, 2nd place), Chantal Marie Titze (front row, 1st place), Lina Andresen (front row, right, 3rd place).
Second row, right: Staatssekretär Dr. Ulf Kämpfer
Photos © Silke Ahlborn

Registration open: Energy Symposium 2013

The Wadden Sea Forum (WSF) is implementing an energy symposium "Challenges in Energy Supply" on 3 June 2013 at Groningen Seaports in Eemshaven. The WSF has invited experts from the energy industry and scientific institutions to introduce and discuss innovative solutions in energy production and storage as well as measures for CO2 reduction in order to achieve a climate friendly Wadden Sea Region. Further information including the symposium program can be found on the WSF website here.

In Memoriam Jan Abrahamse 1937-2013

On 11 April 2013, Jan Abrahamse passed away at the age of 76 years. Jan Abrahamse was a pioneer in Wadden Sea conservation, one of the founders of the Dutch Wadden Society, and the editor of its widely known magazine for many years. As few others, he knew the Dutch-German-Danish Wadden Sea. In 1976, together with Noortje Selt and Wouter Joenje, he was the editor of the “Waddenzee - Natuurgebied van Nederland, Duitsland en Denemarken”, which was translated into German and Danish. A richly illustrated publication written by specialists from the three countries, who for the first time, for a wider audience, made comprehensible why the Wadden Sea is such an outstanding international nature area and why we also need to protect it in a trans-boundary context. It can hardly be overestimated what impact this book had in terms of awareness building in general and on policy makers. Last year he was the chief editor of the book “Waddenzee Werelderfgoed”, the official Dutch publication on the Wadden Sea World Heritage, again a lavishly illustrated book with accessible contributions from renown experts. The World Heritage recognition of the Dutch-German Wadden Sea was also a recognition of his more than 40-years work. However, between the first and last mentioned publications he did other unforgettable work, always seeking to promote and enhance our understanding of nature and landscape and combine it with art in the broadest sense. He has gained a lasting place in the history of the Wadden Sea and in our memories.

Photo: © Svend Tougård

New Product: IWSS-Game “My life as a seal”

The new game "My life as a seal" offers a playful approach to the life of seals in the Wadden Sea. The players slip into the role of a baby seal and experience the adventurous life on sandbanks and in the open water. They learn about positive conditions, negative impacts and nature conservation measures and some players follow on a parallel course through a seal station. The game consists of 70 game plates and a brochure with background information and master copies for worksheets. Additionally, dice and writing utensils are necessary for all players. The game (available in German) has been jointly developed by the Seehundstation Friedrichskoog, WWF, and the IWSS and can be downloaded for free in the IWSS Teachers-Lounge (www.iwss.org/teacherslounge.html).