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Rise and fall of fishing and marine resource use in the Wadden Sea, southern North Sea
Lotze, H.K. (2007). Rise and fall of fishing and marine resource use in the Wadden Sea, southern North Sea. Fish. Res. Spec. Issue 87(2-3): 208-218.
In: Fisheries Research. Elsevier: Amsterdam. ISSN 0165-7836, more
Peer reviewed article  

Also published as
  • Lotze, H.K. (2007). Rise and fall of fishing and marine resource use in the Wadden Sea, southern North Sea, in: Ojaveer, H. et al. (Ed.) History of marine animal populations and their exploitation in northern Europe. Fisheries Research, Spec. Issue 87(2-3): pp. 208-218, more

Available in Author 

    Conservation; Fisheries management; Overexploitation; Recovery; ANE, Southern Wadden Sea [Marine Regions]; Marine

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  • Lotze, H.K.

    The Wadden Sea is the world's largest intertidal ecosystem and one of the most productive coastal areas worldwide. People have fished and hunted marine resources in the Wadden Sea since its origin ~7500 years ago, but have since depleted the majority of formerly important species and their supporting habitats. Most of these changes have been lost from memory. Here, I reconstructed the history of fishing and marine resource use in the Wadden Sea using a multi-disciplinary approach that combines archaeological, historical, fisheries, and ecological records. Early farmers and settlers used a great variety of coastal mammals, birds, fish, and shellfish from ~5000-500 years ago. During the Middle Ages (500-1500 ad) fish gained in importance over birds, mammals, and shellfish, and fishing gradually replaced hunting and gathering along the coast. About 1000 years ago, freshwater and migrating fish stocks in European inland lakes and rivers declined because of overfishing and habitat degradation. This induced an expansion and commercialization of marine fisheries along the coast, first for herring and oysters in the 12th and 13th centuries, later for haddock and cod in the 16th century. Exploitation of birds and whales was also commercialized and some species started to decline with increasing exploitation pressure. During Modern Times (1500-1800 ad), commercial fisheries further developed for rays, flatfish, lobster, and shrimp along the coast and for sturgeon and salmon in the estuaries. Intensification of exploitation in the 19th century led to strong depletion of many coastal resources and several fisheries collapsed in the early 1900s. As a result, new fisheries were developed for formerly less valued species but many declined or collapsed before the end of the 20th century. Today, the only remaining commercial fisheries target shrimp, blue mussels, and cockles. On the other side, conservation efforts have recovered some formerly exploited species, especially birds and seals. Meanwhile, fishing has been gradually replaced by tourism and nature conservation along the coast. The history of the Wadden Sea may serve as an example for a coastal region that sustained people for millennia, was heavily exploited and transformed over time, but still shows some potential for recovery where protection and restoration efforts are integrated into coastal management plans.

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