UNESCO World Heritage marine site managers join forces on Norderney to focus on marine litter

What are the impacts of marine litter on UNESCO World Heritage marine sites and what countermeasures can be taken to address the issue? To answer these questions, World Heritage marine managers and marine litter experts from 11 different nations joined forces this week at a UNESCO workshop hosted at the Wadden Sea island of Norderney. The three-day workshop was held in the framework of the network of managers of the 49 World Heritage marine sites – among them the Wadden Sea, Komodo National Park (Indonesia) and Aldabra Atoll (Seychelles). The meeting was organized by the Common Wadden Sea Secretariat (CWSS), the Lower Saxon Wadden Sea National Park Authority (NLPV) and the UNESCO World Heritage Centre’s Marine Programme.

“Scientists determined in 2016 that at least 8 million tonnes of plastics leak into the ocean each year. This is the equivalent to dumping the contents of one garbage truck into the ocean every minute”, said Dr Mechtild Rössler, Director of UNESCO’s World Heritage Centre in her video message. “As World Heritage sites are of global importance and require special protection to conserve and maintain their ‘Outstanding Universal Value’ for all humankind, the potential impact of the increasing amount of marine litter needs special attention. This initiative is an example of the Wadden Seas commitment towards international cooperation and partnering for World Heritage and I sincerely thank them organizing this workshop.” The Trilateral Wadden Sea Cooperation between Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands brought the workshop to Norderney.

During the workshop, the specific challenges and needs to protect World Heritage marine sites from pollution by marine litter were discussed, and best practices on marine litter monitoring, awareness raising and clean up campaigns were exchanged. “The workshop gave us an excellent opportunity to exchange local experiences on marine litter and reduction measures with other site managers“, says Gregor Scheiffarth, ecologist for mudflats at NLPV. During an excursion the National Park Authority introduced its beach litter box initiative on the East Frisian islands.

“The workshop enabled us to tap into the accumulated knowledge from our colleagues working in the 49 World Heritage marine sites. This is an important first step towards working together on solutions from which the Wadden Sea will also benefit”, resumes Harald Marencic, CWSS Deputy Executive Secretary. “We collected information on how our colleague World Heritage site managers deal with marine litter. We also developed key recommendations to be presented during the next global World Heritage marine managers’ conference, with the objective to strengthen further our collaboration in areas of knowledge exchange and awareness raising.”

The workshop was supported by the German Federal Ministry of Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU), the Dutch Ministry for Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality, the Schleswig-Holstein Wadden Sea National Park Authority, KIMO International and ICBM/ University of Oldenburg.