Swimway Wadden Sea

The Swimway encompasses all fish species which use the entire Wadden Sea area in a certain stage of their life-cycle. Studies on habitat use, migratory patterns and reproductive strategies of key species will form the basis for the approach. The role that the Wadden Sea plays in the population dynamics of these species will be highlighted by studying the entire life cycle and identifying the bottlenecks in population dynamics. This includes diadromous species and the connection between the Wadden Sea and inland migratory routes.

The Wadden Sea stretches across the borders of Denmark, Germany and the
Netherlands, from Den Helder in the west to Esbjerg in the north-east. Of the more than hundred fish species occurring in this area, only a handful are there for their whole life cycle. The majority spend only a part of their lives in the Wadden Sea, either as juveniles to feed and grow such as the flatfish species, as adults to spawn or search for food such as the herring, or en route between marine and freshwater habitats, such as the sea trout and eel. These different life cycles mean that the species utilise the Wadden Sea in different ways.


Working together

The fish population in the Wadden Sea is declining. Therefore, the three Wadden Sea countries: Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands, agreed in 2014 to work together to develop a trilateral Swimway programme.

Together we want to maintain or improve:

  • robust and viable populations of estuarine resident fish species.
  • the nursery function of the Wadden Sea and estuaries.
  • the habitat quality and quantity of typical Wadden Sea habitats.
  • passage ways for fish migrating between the Wadden Sea and inland waters.
  • Conservation of endangered fish species.

The Plan

2017 |  Preparation of programme & Inspiring Support

2018 |  Signed Commitment during Ministerial Conference to celebrate WFMD2018

2018 -2024 | Implementation of programme

  1. Elaborate programme proposal with coordination team and working groups
  2. Inspiring stakeholders to get involved
  3. Stimulating commitment and support from colleagues
  4. Highlighting showcases in the Wadden Sea
  5. Programme signed during May 2018 Ministerial Conference



The Swimway programme is inspired by the Global Swimway initiative that is based on promoting local fish migration project development, cooperation and awareness. The ultimate vision for the Trilateral Wadden Sea Swimway Programme is to have no human-induced bottlenecks in the Wadden Sea for fish populations or their ecosystem function.

An analysis of the current policy and management measures in the three countries, as well as the overarching trilateral targets for fish, will provide the legislative and management framework. By combining the insights into the population dynamics of the species with this policy and management framework, we aim to create a trilateral coherent management programme for fish species in the Wadden Sea, which will address the trilateral policy objectives for fish.

Stakeholder involvement is vital to the success of the program. We pay much attention to communication and education, to increase attention to less visible underwater nature. The programme will be carried out between 2018 and 2024 and will be presented at the Trilateral Ministers Conference in May 2018.

Download related files


The Swimway Wadden Sea logo


Report workshop Hamburg | January 2017


Send us a message

For any questions about the Swimway Wadden Sea project please send us an email. We will do our best to respond as fast as possible.

Martha Buitenkamp: m.buitenkamp@anantis.nl