Multiple use planning for the Netherlands’ North Sea

Rachel M. Gregg
Posted on: 2/24/2017 - Updated on: 3/02/2020

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Rachel Gregg

Project Summary

The North Sea is located between the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, France, Great Britain, and Scandinavia, encompassing an area of approximately 220,000 square miles. The Netherlands’ Policy Document on the North Sea 2016-2021 guides the country’s spatial use of the Dutch Exclusive Economic Zone and territorial sea, approximately 22,400 square miles. The policy is integrated into the National Water Plan 2016-2021.

The Dutch portion of the North Sea is intensively used for shipping routes, offshore wind farms, telecommunications cables, sand extraction for coastal defense and fill, fishing, military exercises, cultural and heritage sites, and coastal and marine tourism and recreation. Climate change is expected to impact all of these uses through rising sea levels, increasing water temperatures, extreme storms, ocean acidification, and more. Of particular relevance to climate change, the policy allocates space for sand extraction, wind energy, and expanded use of tidal, wave, and geothermal energy. Sea level rise is projected to increase demand for beach replenishment and fill. The policy identifies a spatially-explicit sand extraction strategy designed to be ecologically sustainable and cost-effective. A reserve area for sand extraction has been created between the NAP (Amsterdam Ordnance Datum) -20m isobath and the 12-mile boundary. The zone is accessible to other uses only if these activities do not affect current or future extraction.

In terms of wind energy, the policy reaffirms the previously established areas of Borssele, Ijmuiden Ver, Coast of Holland, and North of the Wadden Islands, and identifies criteria for the siting of wind farms and turbines to manage conflicts with other marine uses. For example, the policy identifies the space required between shipping routes and wind farms to enable safe navigation based on a “reference ship” size (300-400 meters long) and its necessary maneuvers, as well as a safety zone of 500 meters around wind turbines. This policy has been applied to the wind energy zones of the Coast of Holland and North of the Wadden Islands. 


Gregg, R.M. 2017. Multiple use planning for the Netherlands’ North Sea. Summary of a project of the Netherlands Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment. Retrieved from CAKE:’-north-sea (Last updated February 2017)

Affiliated Organizations

The Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment is committed to improving quality of life, access and mobility in a clean, safe and sustainable environment. The Ministry strives to create an efficient network of roads, railways, waterways and airways, effective water management to protect against flooding, and improved air and water quality.


Habitat/Biome Type