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Protected areas in the North Sea EEZ


The Natura 2000 protected areas in the German North Sea EEZ. Sea floor topography: C. Terstegge
Chart: The Natura 2000 protected areas in the German North Sea EEZ. Sea floor topography: C. Terstegge

Wide-ranging research has uncovered a vast marine treasure trove far offshore in the waters of the German North Sea – not hoards of jewels in sunken ships or archaeological relics of long-lost cultures, but fascinating gems of European marine life. The world of reefs and sandbanks in the German Bight offers a rich home to exceptionally rare and vulnerable species. Numerous sea floor species find habitat and refuge here, from soft corals and sea anemones to hornwrack and sea squirts, not to mention the many species of fish, including some endangered migrants. Long-distance migrants such as harbour porpoises and seals use these ecologically valuable areas as feeding and breeding grounds. Rare and endangered sea birds such as red-throated and black-throated divers rest here in internationally significant concentrations und use the high abundance of food.

Nomination of protected areas in the North Sea

Sea anemone (Metridum senile) in the North Sea. Photo: Hübner/Krause (BfN)
Photo: Sea anemone (Metridum senile) in the North Sea. Photo: Hübner/Krause (BfN)
Sea squirts (Ascidiacea) off Heligoland. Photo: Hübner/Krause (BfN)
Photo: Sea squirts (Ascidiacea) off Heligoland. Photo: Hübner/Krause (BfN)

In recognition of this importance, Germany nominated its first four offshore marine protected areas to the European Commission in 2004: the Eastern German Bight under the Birds Directive and Dogger Bank, Sylt Outer Reef and Borkum Reef Ground under the Habitats Directive. The Eastern German Bight became a nature conservation area under German law and a Special Protected Area (SPA) under European law in 2005. The European Commission added the Habitats Directive sites to the list of Sites of Communicty Importance (SCIs) in November 2007 and announced the addition in the EU Official Journal in January 2008.


Thornback skate/ray (Raja clavata). Photo: S. Gust
Photo: Thornback skate/ray (Raja clavata). Photo: S. Gust

As part of the Natura 2000 network, the marine protected areas safeguard population interchange and migration, for example with protected areas closer to land. These include the valuable habitats around the offshore island of Heligoland with their unique rocky flats and kelp forests, and the Wadden Sea national parks – likewise nominated as Natura 2000 sites – with their characteristic mudflat, beach, tidal creek and salt marsh flora and fauna. The harbour porpoise conservation area set up off the island of Sylt in 1999 as part of the Schleswig-Holstein Wadden Sea National Park secures an important calving and mating habitat of this endangered marine mammal species. This has now been extended seawards of the 12-mile zone with the designation of the large Sylt Outer Reef Natura 2000 site.


Common seal (Phoca vitulina vitulina) in the Wadden Sea. Photo: K. Wollny-Goerke
Photo: Common seal (Phoca vitulina vitulina) in the Wadden Sea. Photo: K. Wollny-Goerke
Pair of grey seals (Halichoerus grypus) off Heligoland. Photo: A. Essenberger
Photo: Pair of grey seals (Halichoerus grypus) off Heligoland. Photo: A. Essenberger

The plaice (Pleuronectes platessa) is a characteristic North Sea fish. Photo: S. Bär
Photo: The plaice  (Pleuronectes platessa)  is a characteristic North Sea fish. Photo: S. Bär

Natura 2000 sites in the German North Sea EEZ:

 

North sea

Dogger Bank

Sylt Outer Reef

Borkum Reef Ground

Eastern German Bight

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