Schutzstation Wattenmeer – THE LT&C-Example within the Wadden Sea

Schutzstation Wattenmeer – THE LT&C-Example within the Wadden Sea

The Schutzstation Wattenmeer was founded in 1962. At that time she was the first NGO in the Wadden Sea region which combined the traditional idea of nature conservation with guiding tourists and educating them about the value of the internationally important tidal flats and other natural features of the Schleswig-Holstein Wadden Sea. Today the Schutzstation is the leading NGO in the Wadden Sea with more than 8.000 public events per year and more than 350.000 people per year reached through events, educative excursions, exhibitions and other activities. The fact that over the years millions of visitors to the Wadden Sea were educated about the values and protection needs of the area certainly had a significant impact for achieving its status of national park and World Heritage site. The NGO is linking tourism and conservation and thereby is an own clear LT&C-Example within the LT&C-Example International Wadden Sea (NL/D/DK).

The International Wadden Sea of the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark is the largest unbroken system of intertidal sand and mudflats in the world, with natural processes undisturbed throughout most of the area. It encompasses a multitude of transitional zones between the land, sea and freshwater environment, and is rich in species specially adapted to the demanding environmental conditions. It is considered one of the most important areas for migratory birds in the world, in particular for Arctic shore- and water birds migrating along the East Atlantic Flyway. Up to 6.1 million birds can be present at the same time, and an average of 10 to 12 million birds pass through it each year.

That the entire Wadden Sea, today has the status of national parks, other types of protected areas, and got even designated by UNESCO as World Heritage has much to do with the educational and political work the Schutzstation Wattenmeer has been engaged in within the Schleswig-Holstein part of the Wadden Sea. Already since 1962, the organisation lobbied for protecting significant parts of the North-Friesian Wadden by launching the idea of a “Großreservat Halligmeer”. And since 1972 the organisation involved tourists in a campaign for a national park. This goal finally has been reached in 1985 with the establishment of the Nationalpark Schleswig-Holsteinisches Wattenmeer. And that success story had much to do with a cooperative movement of several NGOs (“Aktionsgemeinschaft Nordseewatten”; AGN) against the last embankments of the Schleswig-Holstein Wadden Sea. The Schutzstation did play an essential role in the political battle of the AGN. And its many years’ education work with teaching millions of tourists about the universal value of the wetland with its tidal flats and salt marshes had laid the ground for the historical value change of treating the Wadden Sea no longer as potential agriculture land but as one of the most important natural regions in Europe deserving highest status of protection.

Today the Schutzstation Wattenmeer with its 17 information- and education centres is not only continuing and increasing the positive conservation impact of tourism on the further development of the Schleswig-Holstein Wadden Sea National Park. With its staff and voluntary rangers, together more than 100 highly motivated people, it is officially contracted by the national park authorities with several monitoring and conservation tasks. As the income of the Schutzstation is largely raised from tourists, it is valid to state that through the work of the NGO tourism is also supporting the conservation work financially.

Therefore, the Schutzstation Wattenmeer is an outstanding LT&C-Example, where tourism has supported financially, politically and most importantly by ways of education the establishment of the Schleswig-Holstein Wadden Sea National Park. And today the NGO is further facilitating and managing educational, political and financial support of tourism for the conservation work and development of the protection of the Wadden Sea.

The Schutstation Wattenmeer has much potential to spread the positive impact of tourism through its work and in cooperation with other organisations and institutions increasingly to the entire international Wadden Sea. The strategy for “Sustainable Tourism in the Wadden Sea World Heritage Destination” could serve as a common frame for such development. To relate more clearly to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and set own examples of supporting SDG targets through the design and work of its education centres will be another way of more international outreach and impact. Direct collaboration with international organisations in the field of nature conservation and sustainable tourism, such as LT&C, may make the regional example contributing even more to global goals. 

Today many initiatives in the world aiming to create or develop protected areas are facing similar challenges as the Schutzstation Wattenmeer 50 years ago. Combining nature conservation and tourism can be a solution and successful strategy, which in many cases has the potential to produce win-win results. Important is to find and keep a balance of avoiding overtourism with all its negative impacts on the environment but achieving positive impacts by promoting conservation supporting forms of tourism.

The Schutzstation is very keen to assist other NGOs and tourism enterprises in their way to combine nature conservation, local people’s and tourism interests. 

During recent years, different people and institutions have build up partnerships and exchanges with another region with extensive tidal flats internationally important for Arctic shorebirds: the Yellow Sea of China and the Koreas. Many experiences from the Wadden Sea could probably be “exported” to the Yellow Sea when it comes to achieving also World Heritage status there. Also along the East Atlantic Flyway of coastal birds, more cooperation and exchange of experiences could be reached with other important tidal flat areas such as those on the African West coast.

One Planet Vision for a Responsible Recovery of the Tourism Sector

The UN One Planet Sustainable Tourism Programme, a Partner of LT&C, on World Environment Day,  released the One Planet Vision for a Responsible Recovery of Tourism providing strategic guidance for the recovery of the tourism sector in line with UNWTO priorities.

To inspire governments and the private sector to recover better, the Programme now is inviting stakeholders which are leading by example to share their initiatives for a responsible recovery in order to transform “Vision into Action”.

They are looking for initiatives that:

  • Focus on one or more of the lines of action recommended in the Vision
  • Show how implementation of the lines of action is possible
  • Are strategic to accelerate sustainability in tourism as they are rooted in measurement
  • Provide open source or free to use content for other stakeholders to be inspired, replicate and scale-up

Dissemination of selected initiatives will take place following a phased approach through UNWTO and One Planet social media. 

To participate, please fill in this survey as soon as possible and no later than 15 July 2020 (1st intake):

In line with the priorities outlined in the  UNWTO Global Guidelines to Restart  Tourism, this vision aims to support the development and implementation of recovery plans which contribute to the  Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)  and the Paris Agreement. As such, the vision recommends six lines of action to guide a responsible tourism recovery for people, planet and prosperity,  namely public health, social inclusion, biodiversity conservation, climate action,  circular economy and governance and finance.

LT&C encourages its members, which have provided LT&C-Examples of tourism supporting the Biodiversity SDGs 14 and 15 to participate and contribute with their specific cases.

Download the vision

The Long Run and Half-Earth – an example of linking tourism and conservation

June 24, The Long Run, Partner of LT&C, hosted its 15th weekly hangout for its members, where they introduced their new partner – the Half-Earth Project.  Dr. Paula J. Ehrlich, President & CEO of the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation and lead of the Half-Earth Project was co-hosting the callThe cooperation of The Long Run and the Half-Earth Project is a great example of how to produce synergy between tourism and biodiversity protection, an example of linking tourism and conservation, which LT&C will have a closer look at on how it works in practice. Others may learn from this fruitful cooperation.

At the hangout (webinar) Paula shared insights with the members of The Long Run about the Half-Earth Project, a call to protect half the land and sea in order to manage sufficient habitat to reverse the species extinction crisis and ensure the long-term health of our planet.

The goal of The Long Run is to maintain or improve the integrity of ecosystems through effective, sustainable management practices that ensure ecosystems continue to benefit mankind in perpetuity. The Long Run partnered with the Half-Earth Project because they will be able to:

  • Harness synergies and collaborate in order to push the sustainable travel and conservation agenda even further.  
  • Share best practices and unique insights from their members to inspire others to join the movement and protect landscapes and seascapes for posterity.
  • Seek opportunities to further promote the impacts of The Long Run and its members and further increase cross-pollination and lessons learned to help to achieve the organisation’s vision.

Some of the key points shared in the webinar:

  • The ongoing mass extinction of the natural world ranks with pandemics, world war, and climate change as among the greatest threats that humanity has imposed on itself.
  • Unless humanity learns a great deal more about global biodiversity and moves quickly to protect it, we will soon lose most of the species composing life on Earth.”  E. O. Wilson states,
  • Why one-half? If we protect half the global surface, the number of species protected will be 85% or more. At one-half and above, life on Earth enters the safe zone.
  • Building on cutting-edge science, analytics, and technology, the Half-Earth Project is driving a differentiating scientific understanding of how to best support the most biodiverse places in the world as well as the people who call these paradises home.
  • Advances in technology have allowed them to comprehensively map the geospatial location and distribution of the species of the earth at high enough resolution to drive decision-making about where there is the best opportunity to protect the most species.  
  • The Half-Earth Future programs are an invitation to companiescommunities, places and scientists to consolidate and direct their conservation efforts, and contribute to a Half-Earth future in their own ways. 

As a Community for a Half-Earth Future, The Long Run shows:

  • How collectively the members of The Long Run are demonstrating that business can be a force for good and inspire others to make the world a better place. 
  • That there is a potential for a strong alliance between what The Long Run is doing (the HOW to protect and conserve) with the WHY of the Half-Earth campaign.

LT&C webinar highlights the importance of exchange and support among LT&C members

Last week we had the pleasure to host our first online webinar on “Effects of the pandemic on ecotourism destinations and protected area management – LT&C Example Providers share insights into their crisis management” which featured testimonies and insights from our LT&C members and partners from around the world on how the crisis has affected them in their organisations or eco destinations and what lessons they have learnt so far.

The webinar was moderated by Diana Körner and after a short introduction by LT&C founder Peter Prokosch, the following LT&C example providers and members presented their cases :

  • Sibylle Riedmiller and Benjamin Taylor: Chumbe Island Coral Park, Zanzibar, Tanzania
  • Greg Bakunzi: Virunga national park, DRC, and Red Rocks community activities, Rwanda
  • Svein Wilhelmsen:  Basecamp Masai Mara, Kenya
  • Aivar Ruukel: Celebration of European Day of Parks in Estonia, on 24th of May in 2020
  • Timothy O’Donoghe: Reopening of Jackson Hole & Yellowstone, USA
  • Zoritsa Urosevic: UNWTO – a responsible tourism recovery

The webinar aimed to address the following questions:

  • How can we ensure the integration of the SDGs, especially 14 and 15, in tourism recovery?
  • What role should digitalization play in the recovery of ecotourism?
  • How can we better support, protect and multiply LT&C Examples?

Following the presentations, a lively discussion evolved, with many participants asking questions, particularly in regard to the importance of domestic tourism to offer support to nature-based tourism offers. Panellists shared good practices and lessons learnt from Estonia and Wyoming (US) in launching successful protected area events and offers for local populations. Some of the challenges encountered by African destinations to develop inclusive domestic nature-based tourism offers, which are accessible and affordable for local populations were also highlighted. The role of UNWTO in supporting governments in addressing SDGs and creating local value as part of their tourism recovery plans was discussed. It was found that LT&C examples, such as the ones that were presented, should indeed get priority in terms of incentives for recovery as they directly contribute to SDGs and local livelihoods which in turn are intrinsically linked to conservation areas. These examples provide models and showcases to build on and learn from when re-designing any post-shock tourism development programmes. 

Click here to see the full webinar. 

We are considering hosting more webinars in the future. If you are an LT&C example provider or member, please contact us to express your interest to feature in our next webinar.

World Oceans Day and Week: Why can’t Norway be a better example of how to protect our marine environment?

June 8 has been celebrated as World Oceans Day, and LT&C Partner Mission Blue is prolonging it for the entire week. Many important organisations, institutions and governmental representatives from all over the world celebrated the day, put out their messages or run impressive webinars. One message came up again and again and is shared by many: The core way to protect our oceans is to establish and complete a global network of marine protected areas, which cover at least 30% of the global seas. And that should not only happen on paper. Effective protection must include large no-fishing zones. Today not much more than 2% of the oceans are protected, and even there are the protection measures often weak. When now even the EU committed in its recently published Biodiversity Strategy to achieve 30% protection of all ecosystems and habitats by 2030, both on land and sea, and wants to spend at least €20 billion a year on nature, there should be hope that the entire world community will follow that path. COP15 of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity next year in China provides the chance that this goal will be decided.

An optimistic view is also spread by Mission Blue with their campaign for Igniting Public Support for a Global Network of Marine Protected Areas. You should watch the impressive video with Sylvia Earle on that web page to understand, why this is of crucial importance. Mission Blue’s inspiring way to promote so-called Hope Spots should trigger further and brought understanding for the need to establish many more and much larger Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). This is also in line with the Marine Conservation Insitute, another partner of LT&C, and their Global Ocean Refuge System. Some of their awarded Blue Parks are also promoted as LT&C-Examples. Hope Spots, Blue Parks and LT&C-Examples, they should complement each other and strengthen the message: By 2030 at least 30% of the oceans need to be protected within effective MPAs that by large extent include no-fishing/ no-take zones.

Looking at Norway on the world map of Hope Spots (as LT&C has its base in Arendal on the Norwegian South coast) one can find only two: The Jæren Coast and Kosterfjorden Yttre Hvaler. They are both not really convincing MPA-examples if measured by international standards. Certainly, they are not protected by means of no-take zones. Blue Parks don’t exist in Norway at all, and marine LT&C-Examples have not yet be found either. That raises some principal questions as Norway profiles normally worldwide as a very marine and maritime nation, which supports more than other countries environmental organisations such as UNEP and NGOs or international environmental conventions. Norway is also a leading nation in marine research and proclaimed sustainable fisheries. It is blessed with enormous marine resources in forms of oil, gas and fish, which made it become one of the richest countries in the world. Why is Norway, in contrast, ranking that low when it comes to MPAs and no-take zones? What can we expect from other nations if Norway can’t do it? Why can’t Norway be a better example of how to protect our marine environment?

A test case for finding answers to these questions can be the recently established Raet national park at our doorsteps in Arendal. Formerly planned as “Transekt Skagerrak”, it covers a 607km2 large sector of the sea, reaching out from the coast till about 500m deep sea. It should preserve a representative piece of the Skagerrak coast from any physical destruction or devaluation. Since 1882 the area is the open sea laboratory of one of Europe’s oldest marine research stations, Flødevigen right at the border of the park, which is today part of the renowned Norwegian Marine Research Institute. The research station, e.g. since a long time has studied the development of lobster populations in specially closed for fishery plots. They can demonstrate what biologists all over the world have used as an argument for no-fishing zones: The not harvested fish get older, lay exponentially more eggs and build up healthy populations to the benefits of fisheries in the surrounding of the protected area. Each autumn when the lobster fishery starts in Arendal one can watch, how lobster traps are placed directly at the border of the research plots. However, there is hardly anybody in the region who argues that these lessons should be applied to the entire national park and large no-take zones should be established. Luckily there are increasing activities in the park to clean the area from lost fishing nets and lobster cages, and all together Norway invests a lot in removing plastics from the sea. Maybe those engaging in related local activities realise more and more that they are just fighting symptoms and that they should engage more in solving the root causes and keep at least the larger area of the national park free from fishery for the benefits of biodiversity and surrounding fishery. That way maybe even Raet national park can become a Hope Spot by leading the way for a broader Norwegian marine environmental policy.