This article is part of: ANF Specials Wadden Sea

It would be wonderful to give people a sense of ownership

Text Barbara Hinnen
Photo Bart van Vliet

Bernard Baerends, project manager Trilateral Wadden Sea:

''For the past forty years, Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands have been working together to protect the Wadden Sea. Great strides have been made in that time, including the inclusion of the whole international Wadden Sea on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2014. The task now facing the trilateral partners is to capitalise on the region's intrinsic opportunities – because the Wadden Sea still has vast untapped potential.

Counting birds

Under the Dutch chairmanship in the past four-year period, thirty countries kept a tally of migratory birds for the first time ever. Some 12 million migratory birds cross the Wadden Sea every year en route from Siberia and Canada to Africa's west coast. However, those numbers are flagging due to food shortages and the lack of safe breeding sites.

What makes the Wadden Sea special?

After years of concerted action, the trilateral Wadden Sea partners have honed the tools to tackle these kinds of problems, while World Heritage status guarantees its continued protection in years to come. A network of more than fifty information centres are currently actively building support, with hundreds of guides to show visitors how special this area is. Education is provided by the International Wadden Sea School, which also supplies teaching packages for children.

Bernard Baerends, project manager Trilateral Waddensea

Starry, starry night

One of the things children are taught is that darkness is good for animals and people. In the Wadden Sea, you can actually see the stars at night. To keep it that way, ports are slowly but surely transitioning to 'smart lighting' that switches off when no one is around.

Experiments with smart lighting

Dutch oil and gas company NAM has been experimenting for years now with green light on its drilling platforms. Less bright, they provide enough illumination for helicopter landings, but do not lure birds from their route and also use less energy. With such measures, the Wadden Sea is a catalyst for industry creativity.

Towards a climate-neutral Wadden Sea

The Dutch Wadden Islands alliance is striving for climate neutrality by 2025 and hopes to get all sectors on board. Indeed, this development is essential if the region is to showcase itself as a tourist destination with UNESCO World Heritage status.

Magnetic ferry docking

Booking an eco-hotel is of little use if tourists arrive in noisy, polluting boats. Local ferry company TESO has found a solution by using magnets to dock engine-free. Berthing is a matter of engines off, magnets on!

Trilateral force for sustainability

Getting everyone in the trilateral alliance to support such initiatives is a must in order to succeed, which means that the countries themselves have to be receptive towards each other. In 2014, a sustainable tourism strategy was signed by some twenty partners, creating a basis from which to launch sustainable initiatives together.

The Wadden Sea belongs to you!

The Wadden Seas belongs to everyone and is for everyone to enjoy. Encouraging that vital sense of ownership in people is the idea behind a new partnership centre being established by the three countries in Willemshaven. The foundation of an international Wadden Sea World Heritage Foundation – the first transnational foundation of its kind – is another option now under consideration. If everyone feels a sense of ownership for this region, they will also feel motivated to preserve its beauty.''

Ivo Vrancken | Beeldmaker