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Waddensea enthusiasts rediscover the value of seaweed

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

HARLINGEN The Waddensea seaweed areal was decimated in the 1930s. The seaweed or zeewier or zeegras as the Dutch call this species, gave many people in coastal villages Wieringen, Texel, Terschelling, Urk and Elburg to name some - a livelihood by selling the crop they harvested for mattress and pillow fillings as well as building material used for dike construction. The demise has been largely blamed on the infringement of human activities such as (over) fishing, land reclamation and pollution while a disastrous fungus has not been ruled out as a possible cause. The Waddensea, known as the Frisian Sea to the English, has as its champion the Waddenzeevereniging, a group which views the tidal prone sea between the islands and the mainland as ecologically impoverished without seaweed. According to them and Rijkswaterstaat, the ministry which has the overall responsibility for Dutch coastal and river protection works, the seaweed is an important tool in tidal flat maintenance since it helps to retain the silt. Seaweed also attracts organisms which serve as a source of food to birds and protection to fish. The two agencies have joined forces in an attempt to reintroduce the species, to be followed by a five year monitoring program. The Waddensea is one of the Dutch World Heritage Sites. More on this can be found online at