German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN)

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Countermeasures


A number of extraction plans were approved in Natura 2000 protected areas into the 2000s without having been subject to adequate assessment by today’s standards.

Improved assessment standards

The assessment standards applied in approval procedures for sediment extraction in the North Sea and Baltic Sea have been significantly improved in the last ten years to limit the adverse effects of sand and gravel extraction. Previously, only an environmental impact assessment (EIA) had to be carried out for the approval procedure under mining law.

Today, extraction of mineral resources near and within Natura 2000 sites can only be approved after submission of an additional Habitats Directive assessment. Documentation on statutory habitat conservation, species conservation and impact mitigation also has to be presented for extraction plans outside of protected areas. Completed and ongoing research has significantly added to our knowledge of matters such as the distribution of protected species and habitats, making it easier to identify potential adverse effects and avoid them in good time.

Importance of precaution

If extraction is approved, a minimum separation of 500 to 750 m must be observed to make sure there is no harm to protected habitats. Where necessary, sediment removal can be regulated in terms of area, time and quantity. Careful site selection and regulated timing are essential in this connection, most of all to protect marine mammals such as the harbour porpoise. Filter techniques and targeted and controlled discharge of surplus material after washing or screening could help reduce turbidity plumes.

To avoid the adverse impacts of sand and gravel extraction using cutter suction dredgers, and notably the formation of craters with ‘dead’ zones, this method is now no longer used in German waters.

BfN has been involved in precautionary environmental protection in connection with marine sand and gravel protection for more than 15 years.

See also the outcomes of a 1998 workshop, BfN-Skripten 23 (german):

BfN-Skripten 23: Umweltvorsorge bei der marinen Sand- und Kiesgewinnung (2 MB)

 

 

Map of the North Sea sediment extraction in the German EEZ

Map of sand and gravel extraction and Nature conservation areas in the North Sea

Nature conservation areas with sediment extraction in the German EEZ of the North Sea (As of January 2019)

Map of the Baltic Sea sediment extraction in the German EEZ

Nature conservation areas with sediment extraction in the German EEZ of the Baltic Sea (As of January 2019)

Nature conservation areas with sediment extraction in the German EEZ of the Baltic Sea (As of January 2019)

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