Vlakte van de Raan

The Vlakte van de Raan is a Habitat Directive site or SAC of approx. 190 km2 that consists of ‘sandbanks which are slightly covered by sea water all the time, subtype North Sea Coastal Zone’.

Vlakte van de Raan (decorative image)

The Vlakte van de Raan consists of the Dutch part of a complex of sandbanks that runs in a line off the Belgian coast at the town of Knokke-Heist. The site runs from the Westerschelde estuary to a water depth of 20 m. It connects the Voordelta with the Dutch border with Belgium. The Habitat Directive species at this site are harbour porpoise, harbour seal and grey seal, and the fish species allis shad, twaite shad, river lamprey and sea lamprey. Here, the water’s salinity, motion caused by currents, temperature and clarity all vary. This is due to the tidal ebb and flow and the flow of river water into the sea. The preconditions for the maintenance of this habitat include (relatively) good water quality, clear water and little seabed disturbance.

Under the European Habitat and Birds Directives, EU member states have obligations to conserve species and natural habitats. These obligations are intended to maintain or restore the favourable conservation status (CS) of both natural habitats and species. Member states are required to report on this conservation status to the European Union every six years. Important factors in establishing the conservation status of any species are the population trends, the size of populations and the natural areas of distribution.

Limited information only is available about the Dutch sector of the Vlakte van de Raan. Consequently, no firm conclusions can be drawn about its conservation status based on the presence or absence of certain animal species. Based on the morphology, the seabed characteristics and other abiotic factors, it is assumed that the quality of the habitat type matches that of the Voordelta. The same applies to the types of use and the level of intensity with which the site is used.

Nationally, this subtype has an unfavourable-inadequate conservation status. In particular, fishery that disturbs the seabed influences the quality of the habitat type. For this reason, the habitat of the Vlakte van de Raan has been assessed as ‘unfavourable-inadequate’ and an improvement target is proposed. For further details, please refer to the report entitled, Conservation objectives for Natura 2000 sites (SACs and SPAs) in the Dutch sector of the North Sea.