Expedition 2020: Cleaning up the Wadden Sea

Stichting Duik de Noordzee Schoon (SDDNZS) is a group of dedicated volunteers committing their time to achieve a cleaner and healthier North Sea, preserve biodiversity, cultural heritage, and the recovery of reefs in the North Sea. SDDNZS specialises in the recovery of lost fishing nets (ghost nets), plastics, and other rubbish in the marine environment.

At least 800.000 kilo of cargo and containers from the disaster with the MSC Zoe is still unaccounted for. A lot of the cargo is made from plastic. Much of this plastic cargo will sink and aggregate on underwater obstacles such as shipwrecks, but also on ecologically important oyster reefs. If left, this plastic will also deteriorate to microplastic, and eventually nanoplastic that sooner or later will end up in our food chain. The aims of this project include:
1. The removal of at least 2500 kilo of plastic from the Wadden (MSC Zoe cargo, fishing lines and ghostnets);
2. To investigate the biodiversity of the area with a special focus on the Oyster Reefs; and
3. To produce new footage of the sea life of the Wadden and the threats it is exposed to, such as lost cargo and ghostnets. This footage will be used to illustrate to the public how beautiful, but also how vulnerable, the North Sea is.

The Update

As with many projects in 2020, the coronavirus pandemic presented unexpected challenges for clean-up action in the Wadden. The initial planned 10-day expedition – with volunteers on a single vessel – was no longer feasible. The team at SDDNZS came up with a new plan: one day dive trips with smaller teams on two open air vessels. The goal remained the same, to remove waste left by the MSC Zoë, but the focus would be on local wrecks more easily reached by day trips.

With the dedication of 30 volunteer divers, it is no surprise that the action was a great success – even despite the challenges the pandemic and the weather threw at them! Divers carried out 250 dives to remove almost three tonnes of waste from the Wadden Sea. You can see their efforts in a very inspirational short video, titled ‘Cleaning Shipwrecks’, which highlights the issues, as well as the important action undertaken by SDDNZS: https://youtu.be/HWt-10dM6E8

The project was also able to support marine biologists undertaking a biodiversity study on the Oyster Reef; evidence indicates promising population growth in the restored reef.

Thanks to KEEN Footwear for their generous support of this project.

Image: Waddensea Clean Up