On 19 February 2008 the Voordelta was designated as a Natura 2000 site under the European Birds Directive and the Habitat Directive. The Voordelta occupies an area of the North Sea of more than 900 km². This site lies off the islands of South Holland and those of Zeeland. The area extends from the Maasvlakte to the tip of Walcheren Island. Owing to the variation of fresh, salt, deep and shallow water – characteristic of a river delta – this is an important habitat and foraging site for seals, fish and birds.
Maasvlakte 2 will be built in the Voordelta. This construction will expand the Port of Rotterdam by creating an additional 1,000 hectares of port grounds. With the construction of these grounds, the surrounding space they require and the consequences of the sand spraying that will be involved, a total of 2,455 hectares of sandbanks and shallow sea will be lost – and with them an important habitat and foraging site. Owing to the status of the Voordelta as a protected conservation site, the Nature Conservation Act requires that this loss be compensated.
The Voordelta management plan contains both the measures needed to put Natura 2000 into practice and those that will provide for the compensation of Maasvlakte 2. These measures are designed to protect the quality of the seabed, the food supply and the opportunity to reach this food supply for protected species and habitats throughout the entire Voordelta. The management plan for the Voordelta covers a six-year period and was adopted in June 2008.
At the site, conservation objectives are in place for ‘sandbanks which are slightly covered by sea water all the time, subtype North Sea Coastal Zone’.
Habitat Directive species in the Voordelta are grey seal and harbour seal and the fish species sea lamprey, river lamprey, allis shad and twaite shad.
Thirty Birds Directive species are found in the Voordelta: cormorant, shelduck, ringed plover, red-backed sandpiper, common goldeneye, sanderling, little gull, eider, great crested grebe, greylag goose, sandwich tern, avocet, gadwall, horned grebe, common spoonbill, red-breasted merganser, Northern pintail, red-throated diver, bar-tailed godwit, oystercatcher, Northern shoveler, Eurasian wigeon, turnstone, scaup, common redshank, common tern, common teal, curlew, grey plover and black scoter.