The Wadden Sea is a habitat for two seal species, the harbour seal and the grey seal. In the framework of the Trilateral Wadden Sea Cooperation, the conservation and management of the Wadden Sea seal populations is of high importance.
Under the umbrella of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (Bonn Convention) a trilateral Seal Agreement has been concluded between Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands. The Agreement entered into force in 1991 with the aim to cooperate closely in achieving and maintaining a favourable conservation status for the harbour seal population of the Wadden Sea. It contains provisions, amongst others, on research and monitoring, taking, protection of habitats and awareness.
Seal Management Plan
According to Article IV of the Seal Agreement the Parties shall develop, on the basis of scientific knowledge, a conservation and management plan for the harbour seal population. This plan shall contain a comprehensive statement of actions which are or are to be undertaken by the Parties to achieve the goals of this Agreement. The Parties shall keep the plan under review and amend it as may be required, taking into consideration, the results of scientific research in particular. The current Seal Management Plan (SMP), is valid for the period 2018-22. Since the grey seal population increased significantly in recent years and its requirements in terms of habitat protection are similar to the harbour seal, it has been included in the SMP. The objectives of the SMP are
- to achieve and maintain a comprehensive conservation and management of both harbour and grey seal populations in the Wadden Sea through common, coordinated measures of the responsible authorities; and
- to achieve and maintain a public understanding and awareness of the Wadden Sea seal populations as an entity and as an integrated part of the ecosystem
In accordance with the management plan, a.o. seal reserves have been established in the whole Wadden Sea, which are closed for all activities during the whelping and nursing period, basically from May to September.
The number of counted seals in the Wadden Sea is published every year under the aegis of the Trilateral Seal Expert Group (TSEG) in close cooperation with the Common Wadden Sea Secretariat (CWSS) and is available here.