International conference on fish migration research in the Wadden Sea concluded

150 leading fish migration experts from the Wadden Sea region gathered in Groningen, Netherlands, from 17-19 April 2024 for the second Trilateral Swimway Conference. Dedicated to understanding and preserving diverse fish life cycles in the world's largest tidal flats system, the symposium featured the latest research advancements alongside discussions on practical measures to uphold and restore the viability of fish populations within the Wadden Sea. Today, the 3-day event, which was set within the Waddenacademie Symposium series, was concluded with a discussion on how to tackle the multifaceted challenges confronting migrating fish through management.

“At this conference experts from various disciplines were given a platform to discuss the most recent scientific research and new insights on management measures”, says Paddy Walker, Chair of the Expert Group Swimway of the Trilateral Wadden Sea Cooperation. “Our symposium highlighted how important it is to consider the ecosystem and its inhabitants as a whole and how significant it is to preserve and restore natural dynamics in the Wadden Sea for us all.”
“The health of our trilateral migratory fish strongly relies on the connectivity between open sea, the Wadden Sea, and inland waters”, adds Katja Philippart, Director of the Waddenacademie. “Knowledge on the relationships between these pathways and the needs of fish during different phase in their life cycle is crucial for effectively addressing present and future hurdles along their way.”

At the conference, the experts concluded that the visibility of fish as an essential component of the Wadden Sea has drastically improved since 2019, when the inaugural Swimway Conference was held. In order to protect fish in this World Heritage Site, there is a common understanding that it is essential to continue protecting and improving their environment. Further, science has progressed in the persist to provide information on potential management measures. During the conference, authorities, stakeholders, and managers shared the sense of urgency to jointly act based on our current state of knowledge.

The translation of scientific knowledge to management actions, where conferences such as this one play a major role, can lead to measurable improvement for fish. The process is a cornerstone of the Trilateral Wadden Sea Cooperation’s Swimway-Vision built on research and monitoring, policy, measures, stakeholder involvement, and communication and education.

The 2024 Swimway Conference was organised by the Trilateral Expert Group Swimway, the Common Wadden Sea Secretariat (CWSS), Waddenacademie, Waddenvereniging, the University of Groningen, Wageningen Marine Research, van Hall Larenstein University, Danish National Park Wadden Sea, and Danish Ministry of Environment in the framework of the Trilateral Wadden Sea Cooperation. The next Swimway conference is expected to be organised in Denmark in three years’ time.