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Dieren en planten

Water en land

Mens en Milieu

Recreation and tourism   Aquatic sports   Code of honour   
Catamarans around Texel, foto fitis, sytske dijksen

Aquatic sports

The coastal waters of the Netherlands are popular aquatic sport areas. There are 17 yacht harbours in the wadden region alone. Surfers, sport fishermen (from boats), motorboats and sail boats each take pleasure in the sea in their own way. Although their objective (rest) is often the same as for the nature managers, there are also bottlenecks. Some areas are closed or have limited access, and a special code of honour for aquatic sporters has been drawn up in the wadden region.

  • Water recreation and nature
    ship on tidal flats, foto fitis, sytske dijksen

    A sea full of empty space, which gives you the feeling of almost total freedom. Playing with the tidal currents and experiencing a wide expanse of sea floor becoming exposed. These are a few of the important elements in the motivation of water recreationists to chose the coast and tidal waters. In addition, encountering animals (such as seals and tidal flat birds) is always a highlight of a trip.
    Many of the goals of the aquatic sporters are in agreement with the goals of the nature managers. Nevertheless, there are often clashes. The goal 'peace and quiet' is experienced by both groups as important, however water recreationists looking for peace and quiet often disturb the peace of the tidal flat and coastal fauna in the process. From studies, it appears that birds are disturbed when aquatic sports occur closer than 500 meters. With seals, the distance is 1200 meters.

  • Aquatic sports and the environment
    Household and oil-containing wastes, Ecomare

    Environmental care in aquatic sports deserves special attention. Before much attention was paid to this, the influence of aquatic recreation had a substantial influence on the environment. Dumping oil (bilge water), and PAHs (coal-tar on the ship hulls) had negative effects for seals and birds. The organotin compounds which used to be applied a lot to fight algae growth on those outer parts of the ships under the water surface appeared to be extremely poisonous for many benthic animals, among which the common dogwhelk and the whelk. The much applied alternative used later on, a copper-containing underwater paint, also led to unacceptable accumulation of toxic copper compounds in the environment.
    The aquatic recreationists have taken many measures to limit the inconveniences. Yacht harbours are required to purify the wastewater from the rinsing areas. Oil remnants are no longer allowed to be thrown overboard. Underwater paint containing tar, organotin or copper are not allowed to be used. All yacht harbours have facilities for collecting chemical wastes from aquatic sporters since April 1996. As of 2009, there will be a ban on dumping wastewater from pleasure boats.
    The Dutch Automobile Association (ANWB) awards yacht harbours that have a good environmental management with a blue flag. Skippers that treat nature and the environment well are also allowed to sail with a blue pennant. They are required to sign a document with the golden rules of behavior.

  • Dutch policy in relation to aquatic sport
    Overview of some of the important rules for the Dutch wadden region
    PKB Wadden Sea (1993) Limit movement in general to reinforce channels
    Aquatic recreation faster than 20 km per hour may only take place at designated areas
    Aquatic recreation plan provinces Limit the number of moorings
    Require sanitary facilities yacht harbours
    Town ordinances Rules for boating/shipping outside the channels
    Designate anchorages
    Management plan Wadden Sea Ban on beaching outside 200 meter from the low-tide mark of the reinforced channel
    Environmental Plan Aquatic sport (1998) Require chemical toilets on new boats
    200 disposal points for ship garbage
    Convenant 2003 More room in the regulation for beaching including the code of honour for wadden lovers.


    Regulations which are meant to combat too much disturbance and pollution from aquatic sports have been included in various policy documents. In the National Physical Planning Key Decision (PKB)-Wadden Sea, it has been regulated for the shipping industry to navigate via the appropriated shipping lanes as much as possible. The use of extra loud (thus disturbing) vehicles such as speedboats are also limited in this PKB. The Management Plan for Recreation introduced zoning whereby zones are marked where recreation is allowed, where it is permitted in a limited form and where it is prohibited. The three provinces in the tidal region jointly wrote the Aquatic Sports Plan for the Wadden Sea region. In this plan, a limit to the number of moorings in the wadden region has been established. It also requires the yacht harbours to provide sufficient sanitary facilities. And finally, the town ordinances regulate the places where anchoring is allowed, where one may sail and how fast one may go outside the official channels.
    According to the Management Plan for the Wadden Sea (from 1996), which replaced the previous management plans, recreation in the western Wadden Sea and the Ems-Dollard region is allowed to develop further to a point. The management in relation to the larger aquatic sports is directed at developing a code of conduct; the established zoning and the ban on beaching further than 200 meters outside of the low water line of the marked channels and respecting the disturbance distances are maintained as a 'safety net'.
    An important bottleneck is the overpopulation in the yacht harbours during the high season. Two possible solutions to this problem are being studied at the moment: setting up a signal system, whereby the oncoming visitor receives timely information concerning how busy a harbour is, and creating areas for overflow capacity, or in other words, more room to anchor or beach in the vicinity of the island harbours.
    In 1998, five ministries and a large number of organizations in the aquatic sports collaborated to limit the pollution created by aquatic sporters. In their plan, new pleasure boats are required to have a chemical toilet on board and the owners of existing vessels are stimulated to acquire a chemical toilet. More than 200 collection points will be established on shore. More petrol pumps will also be located along the water banks to avoid spillage with jerry cans.

  • Rules for fast motor boats
    jetski, foto fitis, sytske dijksen

    In the whole wadden region, fast motor boats are not allowed to go faster than 20 km per hour. Exceptions are the reinforced navigational channels from sea to Den Helder, Harlingen and Lauwersoog and the navigational routes from and to the islands. Faster than 20 km per hour is also permitted at some places in the Texelstroom and in the Marsdiep.

  • Clean ship underwater
    Untreated ship hull, Photo M. Tromp

    A thick layer of aquatic animals and plants grow rapidly on an untreated ship hull. The ship will use more fuel and velocity will decrease. In order to prevent the growth, the hull can be treated with toxic anti-fouling paint. The paint slowly dissolves in the water. Traditionally, one often used tin-holding paint, until it was discovered that tin compoundsare extremely damaging for some species of aquatic snails. Paint containing copper was then used, but this kind of paint has also been banned for ships in freshwater because the copper concentrations remain too high. Modern anti-fouling paint that does not damage the freshwater environment is presently on the market. Because this paint does not adhere as well, the hull must be treated more often, which is unfavorable for the amount of waste products.

  • Non-stick coating
    Brush lane, M. Tromp
    Brush lane, M. Tromp

    After using non-stick coating, growth can be removed with a spongeOne is therefore desperately looking for really good alternatives. One hopeful development is the so-called non-stick coating. This paint system contains no toxic materials. It fights growth by producing an extremely smooth surface: organisms have great difficulty in attaching to the surface, and those that do manage are easily brushed off. The second important development is the mechanical cleaning method, whereby the underside of the vessel is mechanically brushed clean.

    The 'Clean Ship Underwater' project began in 1998. In this project, a number of (combinations of) alternative solutions are compared to each other in a practical experiment. A number of ships and stationary underwater panels are treated with a special 'non-stick coating', another group with a simple non-toxic metallic paint and another group with copper-holding anti-foul paint. These ships and objects lie in three different kinds of harbours: a saltwater environment, a freshwater environment and a freshwater harbour from where one often heads out to sea. And the last variant in the investigation concerns the maintenance: do nothing, regularly brush off manually or use the mechanical cleaning facility. Coordination of the investigation is the province of North Holland.