Photo Martijn Beekman

Teeming in summer, tranquil in winter. Seals and shoals, seaside shanties and commercial cod fishers, brilliant lighthouses and bottled letters, eider ducks in the salting and silt swirling on the tide – all concentrated in the tidal area between Esbjerg and Den Helder, an expanse spanning three countries and three Dutch provinces, encompassing 27 islands both inhabited and bare, each with its own character. The Wadden Sea: a UNESCO World Heritage Site. For forty years now, the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark have consulted on the region's management and protection. Under a rotating chairmanship, we assess together how to safeguard its unique ecology and biodiversity, and how to reconcile these interests with economic and tourist activities.

The Netherlands will shortly be passing on the chairperson's gavel to Germany. It is with pleasure and pride that I look back on the past four years. In these four years, our country laid the basis for an action programme for summer birds and inventoried fish species. The tourism industry increased its commitment. The sustainability of fisheries improved and the Wadden Sea ports tackled sustainable innovations. As we pass on the gavel, I look forward to making more ecological and economic agreements for the next four years.

This event will be marked by a government conference in the Frisian city declared this year's European capital of culture: Leeuwarden. Everyone visiting Leeuwarden on 17 and 18 May can enjoy a panoply of both Frisian culture and Wadden Sea life; for instance, by strolling around the Wadden Market. Ahead of the Trilateral Governmental Conference, the Netherlands will also be hosting the national World-Class Wadden Sea convention, where Dutch, Danish and German guests can learn about the sustainable development of Wadden ports in the seaside town of Harlingen.

I would like to invite you to visit the website for a sneak peak of what's in store. Here, you'll have a chance to meet some of the people from our Wadden Unit who count birds and seals or monitor human activities in the area. You can also discover how we're getting the next generation involved. Our snapshot of this dynamic place underscores just how unique, beloved, special and ever-changing the Wadden Sea is.

To preserve the qualities of this exceptional region, long-term policies are needed for its protection and management. I look forward to discussing them with you in May and in the coming years!

Carola Schouten
Minister of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality