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Selection and criteria


For Red-throated Diver (Gavia stellata) undisturbed resting areas are to be protected. Photo: M. Putze
For Red-throated Diver (Gavia stellata) undisturbed resting areas are to be protected. Photo: M. Putze

Selection and site designation

Following detailed research funded by the Federal Environment Ministry (BMUB) and coordinated and evaluated by the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN), notification of the nomination of ten Natura 2000 sites in the German North Sea and Baltic Sea EEZ was sent to the European Commission in May 2004:

  • Three Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) and one Special Protection Areas (SPA) in the North Sea , sowie
  • Five SACs and one SPA in the Baltic Sea.

The nominations were preceded by full consultation with other relevant government departments, the coastal Länder and the general public. The ten Natura 2000 sites in the EEZ are designated under the European Union’s two nature conservation directives – the Habitats Directive (SACs) and the Birds Directive (SPAs). The procedure to be followed differs between the two directives.


The Natura 2000 Network Graphic

Designation process

Two of the sites are designated under the Birds Directive. This meant they could be placed under protection by order of the Environment Ministry after nomination to the European Commission. They were designated in September 2005. The eight Habitats Directive sites were added to the list of Sites of Community Importance (SCIs) in November 2007, which was published in the EU Official Journal in January 2008. Germany now has the task of placing these areas under legal protection and of developing suitable management plans. In doing so, Germany not only makes a valuable contribution to the Natura 2000 network, but also to the global network of marine protected areas which was originally agreed at the Climate Change Summit in Johannesburg in 2002 and should have been completed by the end of 2012.

Responsibilities

The framework for the Natura 2000 network and the related aims and responsibilities apply both on land and at sea. In Germany, nature conservation and with it the selection of Natura 2000 sites are normally the responsibility of the country’s sixteen federal states (Länder). However, this responsibility stops at the outer edge of the 12-nautical mile zone. For many years, no provision was made for marine areas outside this zone, where Germany’s sovereign powers are restricted to certain activities under international maritime law. A major revision of the Federal Nature Conservation Act (BNatSchG) in April 2002 laid the legal foundations for implementing Natura 2000 in the marine areas of the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ – the 12-to-200 nautical mile zone), as called for by the European Commission. Under Section 38 of BNatSchG the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation and the Federal Environment Ministry are in charge of selecting, designating and managing protected areas in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) seawards of the 12-nautical mile zone.

Criteria

The annexes to the Habitats Directive contain lists of habitat types and species requiring special conservation effort throughout the EU.

  • Annex II species
    The following Annex II species must be considered when drawing the boundaries of protected areas in the German EEZ:
    - Harbour porpoise
    - Grey seal
    - Anadromous migratory fish, such as sturgeon, twait shad, allis shad, sea and river lamprey
  • Annex I habitat types
    The following Annex I habitat types must be considered when drawing the boundaries of protected areas in the German EEZ:
    - Sublitoral sandbanks
    - Reefs

Twait shad (Alosa fallax)
Chart: Twait shad  (Alosa fallax)
Sturgeon (Acipenser Sp.), Illustrations: Dr. H. Seibel
Chart: Sturgeon (Acipenser Sp.), Illustrations: Dr. H. Seibel

Typical reef encrustation with mussels and macrophytes in the Kadet Trench (Baltic Sea). Photo: Hübner/Krause (BfN)
Typical reef encrustation with mussels and macrophytes in the Kadet Trench (Baltic Sea). Photo: Hübner/Krause (BfN)

Conservation objectives

The criteria used to select sites for designation as protected areas are set out in Annex III. These criteria include the size and density of populations of listed species, the representativeness of habitat types present, and the conservation status of species and habitats. The protected areas form an ecological network. In conjunction with other specific types of measures, they serve to maintain or restore habitats and species at favourable conservation status. The authorities in charge of each protected area develop conservation goals taking into account the particular environmental and regional needs of relevant species and habitat types. Such conservation goals can include securing undisturbed areas for resting sea birds, for marine mammals migrating or in search of food and also for fish species, conserving staging posts and moulting areas for migratory bird species, and avoiding ‘by-catch’ where species such as harbour porpoises are caught in fishing nets.

The Birds Directive also provides for the re-establishment and creation of habitats.

When defining Birds Directive sites, differing sea bird species were identified for the North and Baltic seas. 

The general conservation objectives for each protected area in the German North Sea and Baltic Sea EEZ were included in the standard data forms submitted to the European Commission. The most recent status is shown in the sections on individual protected areas.


Harbour porpoise (Phocoena phocoena) with calf. Photo: S. Gust
Harbour porpoise (Phocoena phocoena) with calf. Photo: S. Gust

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