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Trilateral Wadden Sea Cooperation

The Wadden Sea is a globally unique ecosystem. It is of outstanding importance for biodiversity conservation and the preservation of ecological and geological processes, which still follow largely natural patterns in the Wadden Sea.

Since 1978 there has been a close cooperation between the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark on the protection of the Wadden Sea within the framework of the "Trilateral Governmental Cooperation on the Protection of the Wadden Sea" (Trilateral Wadden Sea Cooperation for short). The cooperation between the three countries stems from their conviction that the Wadden Sea is a shared and unique natural area of international importance.

Organisational Structure of the Cooperation

The Trilateral Wadden Sea Cooperation (TWSC) is based on the Joint Declaration on the Protection of the Wadden Sea, adopted by environment ministers at the third governmental conference of the three Wadden Sea states in 1982 in Copenhagen and renewed at the 11th governmental Wadden Sea conference in 2010. Governmental conferences on the protection of the Wadden Sea have taken place on a regular basis since 1978 - currently at 3 to 4 year intervals. The Ministerial Declarations adopted at these conferences serve as a working programme for the upcoming presidency.

When the three countries develop joint measures, projects or activities they adhere to the guiding principle "to achieve, as far as possible, a natural and sustainable ecosystem in which natural processes proceed in an undisturbed way". However, it is also of utmost importance to ensure the safety of the local communities (coastal defence) and maintain and strengthen the dialogue based on partnership with local stakeholder groups.

The responsible ministries from Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands are represented on the Trilateral Governmental Council, which is the political lead body of the trilateral Wadden Sea cooperation whereas the Wadden Sea Board is its governing body. The Common Wadden Sea Secretariat (CWSS) in Wilhelmshaven supports the three countries in their cooperation.

Cooperation Topics

At the 8th Trilateral Wadden Sea Conference 1997 in Stade, a Trilateral Wadden Sea Plan was adopted setting out key elements for a joint Wadden Sea management. Implementation of the plan takes place jointly by all three Wadden Sea states, but also individually under national responsibility. At the 11th Governmental Conference in 2010 a revised Wadden See Plan was adopted. The geographical scope of the Wadden Sea Plan corresponds to the area of the Trilateral Wadden Sea Cooperation (Wadden Sea area) which extends beyond the area of the designated Wadden Sea national parks and protected areas (trilateral protected area). At the 9th Trilateral Wadden Sea Conference 2001 in Esbjerg a decision was taken to apply for the recognition of the Wadden Sea as particularly sensitive sea area (PSSA). In 2002 the International Maritime Organisation recognised the Wadden Sea as a particularly important and ecologically sensitive area.

Between 2006 and spring 2010 Germany held the Presidency in the Trilateral Wadden Sea Cooperation. During this period work on the nomination of the Wadden Sea as UNESCO World Heritage Property was concluded and in June 2009 the Wadden Sea was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. In June 2011 the German section of the World Heritage Property was extended to include the Hamburg part of the Wadden Sea National Park. The World Heritage Property covers the German and Dutch parts of the Wadden Sea, an area of almost 10.000 km2 along a coastal stretch of 400 km. The inclusion in the World Heritage List recognises the fact that the Wadden Sea is a globally unique and irreplaceable natural area of outstanding importance for humanity. The World Heritage Property includes the Wadden Sea National parks of Schleswig-Holstein, Hamburg and Lower Saxony and the Wadden Sea protected area of the Netherlands.

Between 2007 and 2010 the trilateral Wadden Sea cooperation underwent a shift in focus and was given a new administrative structure based on an evaluation carried out by external experts. During COP 9 of the Convention on Biological Diversity in Bonn in May 2008 the three ministers responsible for the Wadden Sea cooperation - Sigmar Gabriel for Germany, Gerda Verburg for the Netherlands and Troels Lund Poulsen for Denmark - signed a Letter of Intent reaffirming their support for the cooperation and its modernisation process. The new structure was completed just in time for the 11th governmental conference in spring 2010. It was based on a revised Joint Declaration adapted to future tasks, new organisational structures and new governance arrangements. At the end of the 11th governmental conference the Presidency was passed on to Denmark. In February 2014 the 12th governmental conference took place in Tønder in Denmark.


Assessment of the implementation and success of the measures carried out is done by the Trilateral Monitoring and Assessment Programme (TMAP). Detailed Quality Status Reports (QSR) on the ecological status of the Wadden Sea were published in 1999, 2004 and 2009.

Last update: 17.02.2014