View of the German North Sea and Baltic Sea coast.
EU member states pledged as early as 1992 to create a coherent network of protected areas with the adoption of the Habitats Directive (Directive 92/43/EEC of 21 May 1992 on the Conservation of Natural Habitats and of Wild Fauna and Flora). The Sites of Community Importance (SCIs) or Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) under the Habitats Directive go together with Special Protection Areas (SPAs) under the Birds Directive (Directive 79/409/EEC on the Conservation of Wild Birds) to make up the Natura 2000 network. The aim of the network is to maintain and restore biodiversity on land and at sea.
In Germany, implementing Natura 2000 on land and in territorial waters – in the 12-mile zone – is a responsibility of the country’s sixteen states (Länder). In the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) – from the outer edge of the 12-mile zone to the outer edge of the 200-mile zone bordering international waters – responsibility for Natura 2000 lies with the federal government as represented by the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN) and the Federal Environment Ministry (BMU).
Marine Natura 2000 sites are mainly selected according to the presence and distribution of specific species of sea birds, marine mammals and fish, and of sandbank and reef habits of high conservation value and international importance. The species and habitats concerned are listed in the annexes to the Birds Directive and the Habitats Directive. The aim of designating the sites is to protect these special, threatened habitas and species.
Germany nominated ten Natura 2000 sites across the German EEZ in the North Sea and the Baltic Sea to the European Commission on 25 May 2004. Two are protected areas for sea birds and have been designated since September 2005 as German nature conservation areas and European Special Protected Areas (SPAs). The eight Habitats Directive sites were recognised by the EU as sites of Community importance (SCIs) in November 2007, their designation taking legal effect on publication in January 2008.