Denmark, Germany, and the Netherlands sign the Wilhelmshaven Declaration for a continued protection of the Wadden Sea World Heritage Site

The Wadden Sea can make a valuable contribution to our challenges in the fields of climate, pollution, and biodiversity loss: while being a natural, species-rich ecosystem, its typical habitats also play an important role in carbon sequestration. Next to its Outstanding Universal Value all the more reason to protect it for present and future generations. The Wadden Sea Ministers of Denmark, Germany, and the Netherlands signed a joint declaration outlining the next four years of the Trilateral Cooperation on the Protection of the Wadden Sea (TWSC). On 15 May 2023, the Wilhelmshaven Declaration was presented in the framework of a meeting of the Wadden Sea Board, TWSC’s steering body, in Esbjerg, Denmark, as a follow-up to the 14th Trilateral Governmental Conference held in Wilhelmshaven, Germany, in November 2022.

Titled “Together for ONE Wadden Sea World Heritage”, the Wilhelmshaven Declaration commits to the protection of the Wadden Sea’s Outstanding Universal Value as the largest unbroken intertidal flat system in the world. Next to nature conservation, overarching topics are to create common direction for sustainable development, climate change mitigation and adaptation, communication, partner engagement, and connections beyond the Wadden Sea. The Ministers emphasise their support for enhancing partner engagement by welcoming the work of the Trilateral Partnership Hub, which focuses on cross-border and cross-sectoral cooperation beyond the governmental sector. They also acknowledge the substantial input made by the scientific Trilateral Programming Committee and the 15th International Scientific Wadden Sea Symposium (2021) as basis for the recent launch of the €15 million Trilateral Call on Wadden Sea Research. The Ministers also specifically welcome and declare their support of the involvement of the youth, initiated on a trilateral level with a youth conference, held in Sankt-Peter Ording, Germany in 2022.

With the global triple crisis of climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution in mind, the ministers further state that natural ecosystem functions must be preserved through effective protection while climate adaption measures based on natural approaches are also urgently needed. International cooperation beyond the Wadden Sea remains a key investment of the trilateral cooperation, specifically along the East-Atlantic Flyway, on which the Wadden Sea serves as crucial site to migrating birds.

Four years in the making, a key document to better coordinate the different national and regional management approaches has been adopted with the Wilhelmshaven Declaration: The “Single Integrated Management Plan for ONE Wadden Sea World Heritage Site”. The Ministers declared to foster the plan’s implementation to progress on sustainable transformable change of existing as well as upcoming human activities such as fisheries, shipping, tourism, energy, and coastal protection in a trilateral and coordinated manner.

Statement by Magnus Heunicke, Minister of Environment of Denmark:
“I am pleased that Denmark, in its role as President of the Trilateral Wadden Sea Cooperation, has the chance to continue the strong cooperation between the three nations that share the Wadden Sea between them, and I am looking forward to continuously build on the strong Danish local commitment to the Trilateral Wadden Sea Cooperation.”

Statement by Christianne van der Wal Minister for Nature and Nitrogen Policy of the Netherlands:
“I’m very pleased that we were able to sign this Wilhelmshaven Declaration. The Wadden Sea ecosystem is under heavy pressure. We need to reduce the impact of all activities in the Dutch Wadden Sea to restore the balance between nature and economy and maintain our Outstanding Universal Value. We will do so through the agreements we made in the Declaration and the implementation of the Single Integrated Management Plan. I’ll make sure that the Netherlands will firmly contribute to implement this plan.”

Statement by Steffi Lemke, Federal Minister for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Nuclear Safety and Consumer Protection of Germany:
“In light of the crises of climate change, pollution and biodiversity loss, pressure on the Wadden Sea and its unique biodiversity is growing. It is therefore all the more urgent that the three Wadden Sea countries – Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands – work together closely and productively to advance the protection of our seas and coasts. We have agreed effective measures for this purpose in the Wilhelmshaven Declaration.”

Common Statement by Ministers for the Environment Christian Meyer (Lower Saxony), Tobias Goldschmidt (Schleswig-Holstein) and Senator Jens Kerstan of Hamburg:
“As German Länder, it is both an honour and our joint responsibility to preserve the Wadden Sea, with our National Parks being the core for conservation. The cooperation with people in the region is key to this. Therefore, it is important to continue strengthening partnerships and collaboration within the trilateral cooperation and beyond.”

The member countries of the Trilateral Wadden Sea Cooperation meet every four years on a Trilateral Governmental Conference to discuss shared tasks and goals and sign a new declaration. At the Wilhelmshaven Conference in November 2022 the declaration could not be signed in the usual way, as the Danish government was in a formation process at the time. The signing was postponed until the first meeting of the Wadden Sea Board after the Conference. The 2022-2026 presidency of the Trilateral Wadden Sea Cooperation is held by the Kingdom of Denmark. The next Trilateral Governmental Conference is scheduled for 2026.

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