Convening consultations on protection of oceans and marine resources


This strategy features in the framework of Agenda 21 as formulated at UNCED (Rio de Janeiro, 1992), now coordinated by the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development and implemented through national and local authorities. Agenda 21 recommends arranging for periodic intraregional consultations.


[North Sea]

The first North Sea Conference, also referred to as Conférence des ministres de la Mer du Nord – Noordzee-Ministers-Conferentie, was in Bremen in 1984. This began a series of Ministerial Declarations of the International Conferences on the Protection of the North Sea. National governments and international organizations involved prepare national progress reports. The Paris Commission assesses the relative contribution of point sources and diffuse sources as inputs of the most dangerous substances to the North Sea and examines the appropriateness of different methods of control.

The objectives at the second North Sea Conference (London, 1987) consisted of agreement on a number of measures to protect the North Sea environment, such as: to adopt the principle of precautionary action for safeguarding the marine ecosystem of the North Sea by the use of the best available technology and other appropriate measures; to achieve a substantial reduction (about 50 per cent) in total inputs of substances that are persistent, toxic and liable to bio-accumulation; phase out dumping in the North Sea of industrial wastes that are hazardous for the marine environment by 31 December 1989. One Annex contains a joint statement by the Wadden Sea states. They intend to cooperate with the other North Sea states to further reduce pollution of the North Sea from whatever source with the aim of conserving and protecting the Wadden Sea area. The Wadden Sea states are of the opinion that actions in this respect should be based on the precautionary principle and that emissions of all pollutants should be limited at source. The commitments entered into at the Second North Sea Conference have also been endorsed by Switzerland.

At the third North Sea Conference (The Hague, 1990) the main tasks were to assess whether the targets and the time frames set with respect to the policies and measures adopted at the Second Conference would be met, and to decide, on the basis of the assessment and new developments, which further initiatives needed to be taken. National governments and international organizations involved in the protection of the North Sea environment prepared reports describing the progress in the implementation of the agreements of the second North Sea Conference. Because of the signing of the Convention for the protection on the marine environment for the North-East Atlantic (OSPAR Convention) in 1992 and the progress in EU environmental legislation, the ministers agreed at the fourth North Sea Conference that "the protection of species and habitats in coastal and offshore areas" was one of the priority issues to be addressed. At the Conference the ministers considered that cooperation in protecting the North Sea should be continued, but the 1992 (OSPAR Convention) had to be taken into account because it includes the North Sea in its coverage and provides for many of the matters which are essential to the protection of the North Sea. Also the ministers stressed the importance of the involvement of Norway and Switzerland in North Sea issues. The EU member states, in support of the EU Birds and Habitat Directives, agreed to collaborate on the full implementation of Natura 2000 in the coastal waters of the North Sea and to cooperate in the management and monitoring of the effectiveness of the network. The measures will be taken in partnership with Norway.

[Wadden Sea]

The trilateral Wadden Sea cooperation is based on the Joint Declaration on the Protection of the Wadden Sea, which was signed at the Third Trilateral Governmental Wadden Sea Conference in Copenhagen in 1982. In the Declaration, the Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands declared their intention to consult each other in order to coordinate their activities for implementing the obligations resulting from international legal instruments in the field of nature protection (in particular the Ramsar Convention, Bonn Convention and Bern Convention and the EU Birds Directive and other relevant EU Directives) with regard to the comprehensive protection of the Wadden Sea region as a whole including its flora and fauna. The objective of the meetings is the harmonization of national instruments, management initiatives and objectives in a common, comprehensive management approach to the protection of the Wadden Sea.

The Ministerial Declaration of the Sixth Conference (Esbjerg, Denmark, 1991) established a guiding principle for the trilateral Wadden Sea cooperation, common management principles and common objectives for the human use of the area. The guiding principle is to achieve, as far as possible, a natural and sustainable ecosystem in which natural processes proceed in an undisturbed way. The main aims include safeguarding and optimizing the conditions for flora and fauna. Specifically, the countries agreed on: (1) the restoration of the Wadden Sea and the reintroduction of species; (2) species protection; (3) environmental impact assessment; and (4) cooperation with respect to international fora.

A basic element in the elaboration of the guiding principle is the maintenance of the full range of habitat types that contribute to a natural and dynamic Wadden Sea. Each of these habitat types requires a certain environmental quality (natural dynamics, absence of anthropogenic disturbance, absence of pollution) which is to be achieved through the proper management of the area. The physical, biological, chemical and geomorphological quality of the habitats is to be specified by means of ecological targets, which are to be elaborated by the trilateral Eco-Target Group.

The Assessment Report, prepared for the Seventh Conference (Leeuwarden, Netherlands, 1994), summarised the progress made with respect to the implementation of the Esbjerg Declaration. It was based on the national implementation reports and the Quality Status Report of the Wadden Sea and identified some major issues of concern regarding the quality of the Wadden Sea ecosystem, such as: the negative impact of fisheries on natural assets (food availability for birds, eelgrass, natural mussel beds and benthic communities); the damage to and loss of biotopes and the disturbance of wildlife and birds by tourism and recreation; the considerable decrease in the area of natural salt marshes; the loss of brackish habitats and related ecological conditions; the serious eutrophication caused by high inputs of nutrients; the risk to ecosystems posed by the emissions of micropollutants; and the effects on sedimentation and erosion processes of a rise in sea level.

On the basis of the evaluation in the Assessment Report, the ministers agreed inter alia: (1) that the common trilateral conservation policy should be directed towards achieving the full scale of habitat types which belong to a natural and dynamic Wadden Sea, taking into account the existing protection regimes; (2) that each of the habitat types requires a certain quality, which can be reached by proper conservation and management; (3) that, with regard to the targets for the quality of water and sediment, cooperation should be improved in relevant international frameworks in order to realize the targets for reducing environmental pollution; (4) for the establishment of a management plan, to assess the present state of the habitats in each country's zone, to propose relevant measures to realize the targets and to enhance the sustainable use of the area as defined in the Convention on Biological Diversity; (5) that important parts of the area should be nominated as a Special Area of Conservation under the EU Habitats Directive as part of Natura 2000; (6) that, in line with Section 35 of the Esbjerg Declaration, the Wadden Sea or parts thereof should be nominated as a World Heritage Site by 1997; and (7) to consider how the parts of the Wadden Sea that have been designated as Man and Biosphere Reserves can be integrated in the trilateral Wadden Sea cooperation.

The Eighth Conference (Stade, Germany, 1997) for the first time succeeded in harmonizing the interests of environmental protection and nature conservation with those of Wadden Sea users in the form of concrete measures, actions and projects. The Wadden Sea Plan was adopted at the Conference. Its implementation should not conflict with the relevant legal provisions on shipping, the management of shipping routes, harbour management, disaster prevention and other aspects of internal and external security. The Plan includes targets for joint protection measures covering the various sub-regions of the Wadden Sea: salt flats, dunes, estuaries, tidal zones, offshore zones, rural regions, countryside and culture, water and sediments, and birds and marine mammals. It also specifies the measures and actions to be taken, as well as outlining farther-reaching trilateral projects.

To broaden and intensify the protection of plants and animals, the countries have agreed to develop a Red List of marine and coastal species and biotopes in the Wadden Sea area. Germany is the lead country in the development of a common Red List. A number of trilateral meetings have been held with the aim of developing a common set of criteria for the selection of Red-List species. The list will contain endangered marine and coastal species and biotopes and, as far as possible, the causative factors. The critical values of habitats that are given high priority under the guiding principle include the following: (1) natural water movements and the attendant geomorphological and pedological processes; (2) the natural quality of water, soil and air; (3) the natural fauna and flora; and (4) essential natural functions of the Wadden Sea areas, including particularly feeding, breeding and resting areas for birds and marine mammals. Species that are especially valued include birds, marine mammals (especially seals) and the flora and fauna of the areas outside dikes and adjacent dune systems.

The Wadden Sea Secretariat coordinates trilateral actions that have been decided on by the Conferences. For the Ninth Conference a report will be prepared to identify valuable Wadden Sea elements, including marginal strips of land alongside water bodies and estuaries.

Facilitated by:
Advocating consultation
Type Classification:
G: Very Specific strategies
Related UN Sustainable Development Goals:
GOAL 14: Life Below Water