Experts have raised the red flag over the state of the Wadden Sea, the world’s largest contiguous wetland area shared by the Netherlands, Denmark and Germany.
A report compiled by 100 scientists published on the eve of an international conference about the World Heritage site, reveals the area is in a bad way and urgently in need of a central authority which will oversee its protection and recovery.
The evaluation of the Dutch part of the Wadden Sea shows that, although the area is under pressure, seals are thriving and so are bottom dwellers like crustaceans and shrimp. A big threat, however, are rising sea levels which, made worse by ground surface subsidence caused by gas extraction, will overwhelm the salt marshes if nothing is done.
The fish population is dwindling alarmingly too, the report states. Fewer fish and fewer big fish are being counted in the area, a fall-off of 90% compared to 1959. Over-fishing is the main cause of this, the investigators claim.
Fish-eating birds are also worse off as their source of food is disappearing and 500,000 migrating birds no longer include the Wadden area as an important stop on their route. Breeding birds also suffer, with snipes and coloured sandpipers under threat of extinction.
According to Waddenvereniging director Lutz Jacobi the present situation is the result of ‘50 years of fragmented management and cooperation around the Wadden Sea.’
At the moment some 13 different authorities are responsible for the Wadden Sea, far too many to ensure a unified and effective policy, the Waddenvereniging said. Complex cooperation structures, a lack of scientific investigation and non-compliance with agreements are some of the problems that need to be solved.