History of Europe

1985:Schleswig-Holstein Wadden Sea becomes a national park

Last updated:2022-07-25

On October 1, 1985, a new law came into force in Schleswig-Holstein that declared the Wadden Sea in the northernmost state a national park. Many people in Schleswig-Holstein are skeptical.

Dithmarscher and North Frisians have even announced vehement resistance to the law, which they see as an external encroachment on their areas. Above all, they fear restrictions in fisheries, coastal protection and agriculture.

1974:First protective areas are created

The founding of the national park was preceded by years of bitter disputes between opponents and advocates of a protection zone. Since the 1960s, nature conservationists had been fighting for the entire Wadden Sea to be protected - with success:on January 22, 1974, the state government placed an area of ​​140,000 hectares between the Hindenburgdamm near Sylt and the Eiderstedt peninsula under nature protection.

Nevertheless, the idea of ​​a Wadden Sea National Park continues to meet with resistance. The government withdrew a first draft law in 1974 because of violent protests. It wasn't until 1982 that there was another push, and in July 1985 the government passed the national park law - although many coastal residents were up in arms. They feel ignored by the government in Kiel and worry about their economic existence. Many nature conservation organizations are initially critical of the national park. They fear that more tourists will be destroyed than the national park status can protect.

Shrimp cutter demos and egg tosses against magnification

Not only the mudflats, but also the offshore salt marshes, here in St.-Peter-Ording, are important biotopes.

The plans for a second, stricter national park law, which will come into effect in 1996, have met with correspondingly strong resistance. In the weeks and months before it came into force on January 1, 2000, the protests culminated in a demonstration of shrimp cutters through the Kiel Canal and egg-throwing attacks on the then Environment Minister Rainder Steenblock from the Greens. The demonstrators light bonfires all along the west coast of Schleswig-Holstein.

With the second national park law, the national park area increased towards the sea and since then has covered around 4,400 square kilometers. The Schleswig-Holstein Wadden Sea is by far the largest national park in Germany. A good two-thirds of its surface is permanently under water, around 30 percent periodically dry out. The land part consists mostly of salt marshes.

The Wadden Sea today:a popular holiday destination

A mudflat hike is part of the holiday for many North Sea tourists.

Today, the majority of Schleswig-Holstein's coastal population has a positive attitude towards the national park - perhaps also because it is of great importance for tourism in the region. Since the park was founded, the number of holidaymakers on the west coast of Schleswig-Holstein has risen steadily, and tourism is the most important economic factor there. However, it cannot be proven whether this increase is mainly due to the existence of the national park. In addition to mudflat hikes and boat trips, popular tourist attractions include the Multimar Wattforum in Tönning auf Eiderstedt and the seal station in Friedrichskoog.

UNESCO World Heritage since 2009

The Wadden Sea in Lower Saxony has also been protected as a national park since 1986, followed by Hamburg in 1990. How unique and worth preserving the Wadden Sea is has also been known internationally since 2009 at the latest:At that time, UNESCO named the Dutch and German Wadden Sea areas a World Heritage Site. The section belonging to Hamburg has also been included since 2011, and large parts of the Danish Wadden Sea since 2014.