Protection and management

The Wadden Sea is an unique region. Thanks to the extraordinary plants, animals and landscapes found here and the special role that the area fulfills globally, it is important that the Wadden Sea is protected. That protection is regulated via various laws, directives, treaties and agreements. They are all interconnected, from worldwide, such as OSPAR and RAMSAR, to European and national, such as the National Parks in Germany. The status World Heritage does not change anything in these protective measures; there are no new regulations. That this protected area has now become World Heritage is primarily a crowning of years of efforts of many residents, organizations and governments in the region.


The European regulations consist of guidelines with a specific ultimate goal which the member states must meet after an established number of years. Each member state make their own laws to accomplish this goal. European directives for the Wadden Sea are the EU Water Framework Directive and the Birds and Habitats Directives, the latter two forming the basis for Natura 2000.


The three countries bordering the Wadden Sea, the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark, make up the Trilateral Wadden Sea Cooperation which has been established in 1978. They meet every four years to discuss the forming or upgrading of the protective policy for the Wadden Sea area. In 1997, the three countries signed the first Wadden Sea Plan. The cooperation between the three countries is supported by the Common Wadden Sea Secretariat (CWSS). The work of the CWSS includes initiating, coordinating and carrying out the activities of the Cooperation. It also prepared the World Heritage nomination.

Trilateral Wadden Sea Plan (WSP)

General management of the Wadden Sea is described in the WSP. It includes measures, projects and actions for safeguarding wadden life in the area. Common policy with regards to the wadden region can also be found in the WSP. It forms the basis for the protection of the Wadden Sea and is monitored by the Trilateral Monitoring and Assessment Program. In March 2010, a renewed plan was signed by the three countries.>>More

Trilateral Monitoring and Assessment Program (TMAP)

The aim of the TMAP is to assess the status of implementation of the trilateral Targets of the Wadden Sea Plan and to provide a scientific assessment of the status and development of the Wadden Sea ecosystem. The TMAP covers the entire Wadden Sea area including islands and offshore areas and spans a broad range from physiological processes over population development to changes in landscape and morphology. The TMAP provides the basis information for the Quality Status Report (QSR), which describes and evaluates the recent developments in the Wadden Sea and which gives recommendations for policy and management.>> More


In Germany, the Wadden Sea is protected by National Park laws. Every federal state along the North Sea coast has its own National Park, and its own legislation. The World Heritage Site includes three parks: the National Park Schleswig-Holsteinisches Wattenmeer, the National Park Hamburgisches Wattenmeer and the National Park Niedersächsisches Wattenmeer. These National Parks are divided into two or three zones, each with different degrees of protection. Zone 1 receives the most protection. In this zone, nature has priority over human activities. Management of the region is covered by State and nature conservation organizations.

The Netherlands

In the Netherlands, the Key Planning Decision Wadden Sea, 3rd Policy Document Wadden Sea (PKB) and the Ecological Main structure (EHS) form the basis for protection and management of the Wadden Sea. How the Wadden Sea should be, which role the region fulfills and which human activities are allowed (such as fisheries and recreation) have been laid down in these policy plans. They form the foundation for legislation, such as the Nature Conservation Act and the Flora and Fauna Act. The Nature Protection Act is directed at protecting regions and the Flora and Fauna Act is for protecting plants and animal species. Management of the Dutch Wadden Sea is in the hands of the Federal State, Provinces, Municipals and several private nature organizations.

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Wadden Sea Trilateral Cooperation Area

Public institutions working on the protection of the Wadden Sea