International marine cooperation

The Netherlands coastline borders to the North Sea (connected to the North Atlantic Ocean) and the Wadden Sea. Because other countries also border this ocean and these seas, Rijkswaterstaat works together on their conservation and protection.


Since 1992 the OSPAR Convention has identified threats to the marine environment of the North-East Atlantic. It sets out programmes and measures to ensure effective national action to protect and conserve the ecosystems and biological diversity of the maritime area.

Through a mandate of the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Watermanagement, Rijkswaterstaat is active in many committees. It also participates in working groups Biological Diversity & Ecosystems, Hazardous Substances & Eutrophication, Human Activities, Offshore Industry (OIC) en Radioactive Substances (RSC).

OSPAR managed to set ways of monitoring and assessing the environmental status of the seas. Internationally agreed goals and commitment by participating Governments are key to deliver what is needed.

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

In June 2021 a Ministerial Conference set out the new 10 year strategy.

Trilateral Wadden Sea Cooperation

Since 1978, Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands have been cooperating to protect the Wadden Sea as an ecological entity. The Guiding Principle of the Trilateral Cooperation on the Protection of the Wadden Sea, in short 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’, which was first signed in 1982 and last updated in 2010. The Joint Declaration is a declaration of intent and delineates the objectives and areas of the cooperation. As well as its institutional and financial arrangements.

For the past 4 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 transboundary ecosystem-based collaboration was a prerequisite for the designation of the Wadden Sea as World Heritage site.

The Trilateral Wadden Sea Cooperation:

  • protects and conserves the Wadden Sea as an ecological entity, through common policies and management;
  • monitors and assesses the quality of the Wadden Sea ecosystem, in collaboration with national and regional authorities and scientific institutions. This is the basis for effective protection and management;
  • cooperates internationally with other marine sites on protection, conservation and management;
  • engages the public in the protection of the Wadden Sea through awareness-raising activities and environmental education;
  • secures the sustainable development of the Wadden Sea Region, with regard to its natural and cultural values.


The International Council for the Exploration of the Sea is an intergovernmental marine science organization. The organization is meeting societal needs for impartial evidence on the state and sustainable use of our seas and oceans.

Our goal is to advance and share scientific understanding of marine ecosystems and the services they provide. But also to use this knowledge to generate state-of-the-art advice, for meeting conservation, management, and sustainability goals. This scientific basis is applied 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 annually. Through strategic partnerships our work in the Atlantic Ocean also extends into the Arctic, the Mediterranean Sea, the Black Sea, and the North Pacific Ocean.