International marine cooperation

The Dutch coastline borders the North Sea (which is connected to the North Atlantic Ocean) and the Wadden Sea. As other countries also border these seas and oceans, Rijkswaterstaat works together with them to conserve and protect these waters.


Since 1992, the OSPAR Convention has identified threats to the marine environment of the North-East Atlantic. It implements programmes and measures to ensure effective national action to protect and conserve the ecosystems and biodiversity of the vital marine area.

Rijkswaterstaat sits in many committees on behalf of the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management. It also significantly contributes to various working groups, including Biological Diversity & Ecosystems, Hazardous Substances & Eutrophication, Human Activities, Offshore Industry and Radioactive Substances.

OSPAR has succeeded in establishing ways to monitor and assess the environmental status of the seas. Internationally agreed targets and the commitment of participating governments are key to achieving what is needed.

The OSPAR Commission is an important mechanism to help governments work together in the region, while making further efforts to improve the protection of the North-East Atlantic. It has also established itself as a forum for expert dialogue on the challenges of the European Marine Strategy Framework Directive.

In June 2021, a ministerial conference set out the new 10-year strategy, signalling a renewed commitment to protecting our shared marine environments.

Trilateral Wadden Sea Cooperation

Since 1978, a cooperative endeavour between Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands have has been working towards a singular aim: preserving the Wadden Sea as an ecological entity. The guiding principle of the Trilateral Wadden Sea Cooperation is ‘to achieve, as far as possible, a natural and sustainable ecosystem in which natural processes proceed in an undisturbed way’.

The cooperation is based on the ‘Joint Declaration on the Protection of the Wadden Sea’, first signed in 1982 and last updated in 2010. The Joint Declaration is a declaration of intent and establishes the objectives and areas of the cooperation. It also sets out the institutional and financial arrangements.

Over the past four decades, the cooperation has fostered cooperation and exchange between partners from politics, nature conservation, science and administration, as well as local stakeholders. Together they represent an enormous pool of knowledge and experience. 

This cross-border, ecosystem-based cooperation was a prerequisite for the designation of the Wadden Sea as a World Heritage Site.

Pillars of the Trilateral Wadden Sea Cooperation:

  • protect and conserve the Wadden Sea as an ecological entity through common policies and management
  • monitor and assess the quality of the Wadden Sea ecosystem in cooperation with national and regional authorities and scientific institutions, creating a robust foundation for its effective protection and management
  • cooperate internationally with other marine areas on protection, conservation and management
  • involve the public in protecting the Wadden Sea through awareness-raising activities and educational initiatives focused on environmental protection
  • ensure the sustainable development of the Wadden Sea region, taking into account its natural and cultural values


The International Council for the Exploration of the Sea is an intergovernmental marine science organisation. It responds to society's need for impartial advice on the state and sustainable use of our seas and oceans.

The Council’s aim is to advance and share scientific understanding of marine ecosystems and the services they provide. But also to use this knowledge to provide state-of-the-art advice to achieve conservation, management and sustainability goals. This scientific basis is used to advise national governments, EU committees, HELCOM and OSPAR.

ICES is a network of nearly 6,000 scientists from over 700 marine institutes in its 20 member countries and beyond. Over 2,500 scientists participate in our activities each year. Through strategic partnerships, our work in the Atlantic Ocean extends to the Arctic, the Mediterranean Sea, the Black Sea and the North Pacific Ocean.