25 years ago, the Wadden Sea countries saw the potential of a trilateral and transboundary plan for the protection and sustainable management of the largest unbroken intertidal flats system in the world: the Wadden Sea Plan. It is also the management plan for the Wadden Sea World Heritage Site and thus the foundation for preserving its Outstanding Universal Value. The trilateral Wadden Sea Plan was adopted at the 8th Trilateral Governmental Conference in Stade in 1997, later revised in 2010.
“The great achievement of the Wadden Sea Plan was that the three Wadden Sea countries determined which goals they wanted to pursue for this ecological system”, says CWSS Executive Secretary Bernard Baerends. “At the same time, the plan is also its own appeal to the states to also take these goals seriously. Further, the Wadden Sea Plan and its goals have laid the foundation for the quality status reports that are regularly prepared for different areas of the Wadden Sea. You can say that the Wadden Sea Plan is the basis for trilateral cooperation.”
The plan includes the Cooperation’s common vision, principles, and policies, and constitutes a framework for measures. Since then, it has served as the policy and management plan for the Wadden Sea’s natural and cultural heritage. Through its trilateral targets and policies, it aims to mirror the shared vision of harbouring biological diversity in the area and sustaining it for generations to come, maintaining the ecological unique state, historical and cultural values of the site for its visitors, and upholding the commitment and involvement of the Wadden Sea communities.
“If we think back to the 1990s, we had hardly any overarching data, there was little cooperation between the countries and no common vision of how the Wadden Sea should develop”, remembers Deputy Executive Secretary Harald Marencic. “There was also no European legislation that set guidelines. That came later. The three countries were pioneers and together they thought about how a common protection of the Wadden Sea could look like. That was a big step forward - and the Wadden Sea Plan still plays a role in cooperation today.”
To this day, the Wadden Sea Plan is driven by a well-grounded vision of a mutually invested community that works actively and efficiently on sustaining ecological veracity and resilience, which can only be achieved through the mutual proper management of the Wadden Sea Area.