Those involved

Since 2001 the Dutch sector of the North Sea has been a 'land sector'. The Netherlands’ saltwater sector was given this curious designation in the Fifth Memorandum on Spatial Planning. By contrast, the North Sea received no attention at all in the four previous national Memorandums on spatial policy.

From the shore, the sea looks rather empty and unused, but the true story is very different. Shipping traffic in the North Sea is heavy, involving both passenger and freight traffic. The marine environment feels the impact of fisheries activity, gas and oil extraction, the installation and maintenance of cables and pipes, sand dredging and military use. Yet more pressure on the nature of the North Sea comes from coastal protection, the development of sea ports and the construction of wind farms. These facts influence life in and on the water. As this activity suggests, numerous parties have a vested interest in the Dutch sector of the North Sea. The interests of all these stakeholders are taken into account when protected Natura 2000 sites are created in the North Sea. The Dutch and European governments weigh up the interests of all stakeholders against the interests of ecology and nature. They base their policy on their findings.

The Dutch North Sea occupies an area of 57,000 km². Under European legislation, almost one-fifth of this area (19%) is being designated as a SAC or SPA. In the coastal zone, in particular, many different uses coincide. Here, the environmental pressures pile up. As do their negative effects.