Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Seakayaking in the Voordelta - Maasvlakte II

The Voordelta is a favourite playground for the Dutch seakayaker. It's nearby the Randstad and offers a diverse landscape of sandbanks between the isles of Zuid-Holland and Zeeland. The area also has sensitive marine life. And it's located in one of the most populated and industrialised regions of the world. Rotterdam, the port of Europe, is only a few miles away. Lot's of interests come together. Our recreational sport is one of them. We have to deal with the consequences.

An actual development is the planning for the expansion of the harbour of Rotterdam. The Maasvlakte II is an extension of the existing harbour and industrial area with 2500 hectares new land in the Northsea. The effects of this expansion on sealife must be compensated. Dutch government has decided to do this in the Voordelta. In the Voordelta an area of 25.000 hectares will be pointed out to be "bodembeschermingsgebied" (= seabed-protection zone). Activities that potentially effect marine life will be restricted in this zone. This concerns mainly commercial fishing activities. Within the "bodembeschermingsgebied" there will be "rustgebieden" (=resting zones) for the seals and seabirds. The "rustgebieden" will be closed areas for all human activities. The location of the "rustgebieden"are the sandbanks and the shallow zones around the sandbanks.

Last year I was involved in the negotiations with the authorities about the consequences of the compensation of Maasvlakte II for seakayaking. I must say we (=the kayak organisations NKB, TKBN )had a constructive consultation with the Projectorganisation Mainport Rotterdam. Starting point was that existing recreational use of the Voordelta should also be in future possible. So we had to find out a way in which the compensation target for the marine life in the Voordelta could be realised without making seakayaking impossible. The result is published a month ago and can now be found on the web: the "ontwerp-beheerpslan Voordelta" is a draft for the new regulation on the human use of the Voordelta. Free movement for seakayakers is limited in future: most sandbanks will be closed area for us, and some shallow waters will be closed part of the year. But as a result of our consultations the boundaries of the "rustgebieden" are adapted and there are corridors between the sandbanks and the isles introduced so that the most popular seakayak-routes stay possible in future.
The new legislation will probably start (already!) in 2008.

The picture above this post, taken last Sunday, will be historic: a group of seakayakers taking a break on the Aardappelbult. This sandbank is chosen to be one of the "rustgebieden". The circumnavigation we did Sunday stays possible in future. Pausing on the sandbank not.
Of course this means a serious restriction. On the other hand: respect for wildlife limits access the sandbanks already: a respectful seakayaker stays away from resting seals and seabirds!

Note: I found it rather hard to write a correct and complete post on this complex issue in English. I still don't think I completely succeeded. However I hope I offer some useful information for the Dutch kayakers and advise them to have a look themselves at the website of the Ontwerp-beheersplan. You can find some maps on the website with the (intended) borders of the in future restricted areas).

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