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Strandings of sea birds and marine mammals on the Belgian coast
Specific examples
Strandings and sightings database
What can you do?
Exotic species
Coastal pollution, Tricolor incident: bird statistics
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Land-based sources of pollution and sea-based activities
What the law says
Recent legislation
Agreement on the Conservation of Small Cetaceans of the Baltic and North Seas
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Nature conservation

All human activities carried out both at sea and on land put considerable pressure on marine species and their habitats which require increased protection.

This falls within the general framework of the Convention on biological diversity, ratified by Belgium by means of the law of 11 May 1995 and for which the IRScNB (the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences) is the national focal point. The marine aspects of this Convention were detailed in the 'Djakarta Mandate' of 14-15 November 1995. As regards the north east Atlantic, this concern is covered by Appendix V to the OSPAR Convention, which came into force on 25 March 1998 and was ratified in Belgium on 28 August 2005 (act of 6 March 2002, Belgian Official Journal 23 September 2005, PDF, 5pp, 37KB). In Belgium, the MMM act provides a strong legal basis on which to take action in this area.

The habitats in the Belgian marine zone are typical of the shallow coastal waters of tidal, temperate seas. The sediment consists mainly of sand, but various obstacles, such as groins or shipwrecks, also provide a habitat for a community of animals and plants characteristic of rocky coastlines. The western part of the Belgian coastal zone, with its remarkable, very shallow sandbanks, is the most important area in ecological terms, given the density and diversity of the animals that live in its depths.

The interest of this zone (see map) is officially recognised by its status of 'marine area of international importance, in particular for sea birds', in the context of the RAMSAR Convention, ratified by Belgium by means of the law of 22 February 1979. This designation was based on the fact that large numbers of sea birds, particularly common scoters, come here to hibernate. MUMM supervises this protected area.

Common scoter

In the context of the Habitats Directive [Council Directive 92/43/EEC of 21 May 1992 concerning the preservation of natural habitats as well as fauna and flora], this zone was put forward as a candidate by the NATURA 2000 network, the purpose of which is to create an integrated European system of areas, in this case ecologically important marine areas that make it possible to protect species - especially the most fragile ones - and their habitats 'in stops and starts'. This application still has to be endorsed by the European Commission.

MUMM also covers Belgium's obligations within the framework of ASCOBANS. In this context, it coordinates an intervention network in charge of the scientific examination of animals (mammals and birds) washed up on the beaches or killed as bycatches.

The steady increase in international exchanges poses a serious problem in terms of the introduction of foreign species into our waters.

Moreover, one of the challenges currently facing MUMM is to meet the inescapable need to establish marine nature reserves. These must be ecologically significant, backed up by rigorous management plans and accepted by all the parties concerned.

Finally, protecting the marine environment requires 'Integrated Management of Coastal Areas' with a certain degree of European harmonisation. In this respect, during the Belgian Presidency of the European Union, (second half of 2001), MUMM acted as the pilot for the draft recommendation on a strategy for the integrated management of coastal areas regarding which a political agreement was reached on 29 October 2001. Its final adoption and implementation will enable the coordinated development of this concept.

Coastal forecast

-0.24 m
4.53 m
 Table Graph North Sea animation Belgian coastal zone animation

Harmonic prediction 
Ostend 1980–2020:
Enter as YYYY-MM-DD
 Speed 12.79 m/s 
 Sector 201° , SSW 
 Table Graph Line plot North Sea animation
 Height 1.43 m
 Table Graph North Sea animation
 Graph ploar plot Line plot North Sea animation Belgian coastal zone animation
 Graph Daily maps
 Graph Daily maps
  Daily maps

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