Last winter, some rare animals washed up on the North Sea coast. One sea turtle find was recorded on the islands of Norderney and Amrum and two on Sylt, as Rainer Borcherding from the Wadden Sea Conservation Station told the German Press Agency. That’s as many as in the previous 15 years.

In addition, a dead leatherback turtle was recovered from the North Sea off Schleswig-Holstein in September. Seahorses are also being discovered more and more often in the mudflats on the Wadden Sea.

Report rare animals in the app

Finds can be reported to the Wadden Sea Conservation Station via the Beach Explorer app, which is funded by the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation. This makes it possible to determine over the years where which things wash up and whether the frequency changes with the climate or with marine protection measures. “The Beach Explorer becomes more informative with every beach discovery reported,” said Borcherding. “With over 50,000 data sets, we can already document and evaluate many changes.” There is quality control to ensure that the Beach Explorer’s discovery data can also be used for scientific evaluations.

Of course, individual finds should always be interpreted with caution, said the biologist. Nevertheless, they are indications that can point to trends: three finds of the nail ray, which was displaced from the Wadden Sea around 1970 due to overfishing, in 2016, 2017 and 2020 show that the species has the potential to return and resettle in the Wadden Sea. Two blue sharks (2017 Sylt, 2023 Baltrum) and a tuna (2015 Sylt) also showed that these large migratory fish are again coming to the North Sea, where they were normal occurrences in previous centuries.

Underwater world threatened despite protection

Although the Wadden Sea is under special protection as a national park, its underwater world is still threatened, as Hans-Ulrich Rösner from the WWF Wadden Sea Office said. “Many species disappeared decades ago. However, individual finds show that species like the nail ray are trying to return to the Wadden Sea from other coasts.” However, such a repopulation can only work if large parts of the national park are no longer fished and the underwater world can develop there again.