The Wadden Sea is a globally unique ecosystem. It is of outstanding importance for biodiversity conservation and the preservation of ecological and geological processes, which still follow largely natural patterns in the Wadden Sea.
Since 1978, the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark have been working closely together in the Trilateral Wadden Sea Cooperation (TWSC) for the protection of the Wadden Sea. This cooperation stems from their conviction that the Wadden Sea is a shared and one-of-a-kind natural area of international importance.
Organisational Structure of the Cooperation
The TWSC is based on the Joint Declaration on the Protection of the Wadden Sea adopted by the environment ministers of the three countries. Governmental Conferences on the pro-tection of the Wadden Sea have taken place on a regular basis since 1978 – currently at three to four year intervals. The work programmes are adopted for the upcoming presidency dur-ing the conferences.
When the three countries develop and implement joint measures, projects or activities they adhere to the principle "to achieve, as far as possible, a natural and sustainable ecosystem in which natural processes proceed in an undisturbed way". However, it is important to ensure the safety of the local communities (coastal defence) and maintain and strengthen partner-ship-based dialogue with local stakeholder groups.
The Trilateral Governmental Council, comprising the responsible ministries from Denmark Germany and the Netherlands, sets out the political guidelines of the Trilateral Wadden Sea Cooperation. The Wadden Sea Board is the governing body of the TWSC. The Common Wadden Sea Secretariat (CWSS) in Wilhelmshaven supports the three countries in their co-operation.
At the 8th Trilateral Wadden Sea Conference in 1997 in Stade, a Trilateral Wadden Sea Plan was adopted setting out key elements for joint Wadden Sea management. Implementation of the plan is carried out jointly by all three Wadden Sea states, but also individually under na-tional responsibility. At the 11th Governmental Conference in 2010, a revised Wadden Sea Plan was adopted. The geographic scope of the Wadden Sea Plan corresponds to the area of the Trilateral Wadden Sea Cooperation (Wadden Sea area) which extends beyond the area of the designated Wadden Sea national parks and protected areas (trilateral protected area). At the 9th Trilateral Wadden Sea Conference 2001 in Esbjerg a decision was taken to apply for the recognition of the Wadden Sea as a particularly sensitive sea area (PSSA). In 2002 the International Maritime Organisation recognised the Wadden Sea as a particularly important and ecologically sensitive area.
From 2006 to spring 2010, Germany held the Presidency of the Trilateral Wadden Sea Co-operation.
During this period, work on the nomination of the Wadden Sea as a UNESCO World Heritage property was concluded and, in June 2009, the Dutch and German Wadden Sea was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List. In June 2011, the German section of the World Heritage property was extended to include the Hamburg Wadden Sea National Park. In 2014, the property was enlarged to include the Danish Wadden Sea and seeward parts of the Lower Saxony Wadden Sea National Park. The entire Wadden Sea extending from the Netherlands through Germany as far as the Danish North Sea coast has now been recognised as a World Natural Heritage property and covers around 11,500 square kilometres. The Wadden Sea is one of the largest wetland areas in the world, where 10 to 12 million migratory birds stop over each year. It provides habitats for around 10,000 species of flora and fauna.
Denmark held the Presidency from 2010 to 2014. At the 12th Governmental Conference, held in Tønder in Denmark in February 2014, the Tønder Declaration was adopted which set the programme for the next 4 years. The Trilateral Wadden Sea Cooperation is currently working under Dutch Presidency. Germany will take over the Presidency in 2018.
Assessment of the implementation and success of the measures carried out is done by the Trilateral Monitoring and Assessment Programme (TMAP). Detailed Quality Status Reports (QSR) on the ecological status of the Wadden Sea were published in 1999, 2004 and 2009.