Seize fishing opportunities in the Wadden Sea

Wadden Sea near Werum. Photo: shutterstock

Fish stocks in the Wadden Sea have been a concern for some time. But what should we do about it? Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands have already agreed targets in 2010 to do more for Wadden Sea fish. A good goal, but more coordination is needed to achieve these goals.

Each country now has to make its own policy. In the Netherlands, policy frameworks provide sufficient scope to achieve the triple goals of fish.

These goals have been in place since 2010 to address the degradation and impoverishment of fish fauna in the Wadden Sea. It is approved by Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands. In 2018, the ministers of the three countries in Leeuwarden agreed to set these fishing targets according to the Swimway Principles, which revolve around the role that the Wadden Sea plays in the life cycle of different fish species. One species stays in the Wadden Sea throughout the cycle, and another is a nursery or place of growth.

But can we do the job in the Netherlands and achieve the goals? Interesting conclusions are drawn from an analysis conducted on behalf of the Program towards the Rich Wadden Sea in the extent to which the Fishway Wadden Sea’s specific tripartite fishing objectives are supported by Dutch rules and policy frameworks.


Existing legal frameworks offer different opportunities. The Natura 2000 area provides ample scope for further elaboration of the triangular objectives of fish. For example, by including the species mentioned in Swimway in the Natura 2000 profile documentation as “typical” species. This allows for the development of specific measures.

Moreover, it would be logical for the fish to take the Natura 2000 areas of the Wadden Sea, Ems-Dollard and the coastal zone of the North Sea as a whole, which makes it possible to develop a “fish management plan”.

The latter immediately provides a link with the work and goals of Wadden’s management body and could lead to pleasant synergies in the future. Although the Marine Framework Directive (MSFD) does not apply to the Wadden Sea, MSFD is not about species that spend part of their life cycle in the Wadden Sea. Researching synergies and coordination between objectives and measures in place in the North Sea and Wadden Sea, which are relevant to agreed fishing objectives, can be of great value.

OSPAR Convention

The Wadden Sea falls under the international treaty OSPAR (Oslo-Paris Agreement), whose main objectives are to stop biodiversity loss and protect and preserve ecosystems. In addition, OSPAR provides opportunities to make agreements about species that require more attention, such as eels, topearn sharks, spotted smooth sharks and spiny rays, but also sturgeon. They also provide space to include hunting targets.

There are also opportunities within national and regional frameworks. Work is currently underway on the Wadden Sea Agenda 2050, Nature’s Ambition for Big Water, and the Programmatic Approach to Big Water. All of these frameworks have a broad ambition to have a healthy fish stock and/or want to give the “lane” a place for the fish. In order to arrive at concrete political intentions, the objectives can be formulated according to the tripartite fishery objectives, which will include restoring or preserving the fisheries-related functions of the Wadden Sea.

To what extent?

The alignment of existing frameworks such as Natura 2000, MSFD and OSPAR and the subsequent pursuit of collaborations and agreements with national developments, now underway with the Wadden Sea Agenda 2050 and the Programmatic Approach to Large Waters, provides a solid foundation for achieving the Triple Objective fisheries.

The common denominator here is to increase interest in fish through an “action plan” or the development of fish management plans. This may be a good support for the work the Wadden Sea Governing Body is now doing, greatly increasing the chances of a healthy fish stock in the Wadden Sea.

Paddy Walker is an independent consultant who has conducted a program analysis into the Rich Wadden Sea of ​​the effectiveness of current policy frameworks for the triangular fishing objectives.

This article was created at the initiative of Wadden Academy

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