Commissioned by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and the Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment, IMARES performed research within the framework of the project 'Additional Protected Areas' during the period 2009-2012. The project’s aim was to investigate if additional marine Nature 2000 areas could be identified. The results of the IMARES study were presented to Sharon Dijksma, State Secretary of Economic Affairs, in January 2013.
The research revealed that large numbers of guillemots and auks are present in the Brown Ridge (Bruine Bank) area in the North Sea in the winter. Stones and stone-like structures have been found in the Borkum Reef area (Borkumse Stenen, habitat type ‘reefs’). Further investigation of these areas is required in order to decide on the definition of the boundaries and the designation of the area as Natura 2000 areas.
In October 2012, the areas of the Central Oyster Grounds (Centrale Oestergronden) and the Frisian Front (Friese Front) were already designated in the Dutch Marine Strategy as areas in which spatial measures were to be taken in order to protect the seabed ecosystem (the great diversity of bottom-dwelling creatures).
For the Gas Seep area (Gasfonteinen), the habitat type 'carbonate structures formed by leaking gases' was not found. In the area defined as the 'Zeeland Ridges' (Zeeuwse Banken), the habitat type 'sand banks' was found to be present, but this cannot be distinguished adequately from the same habitat type in the existing Natura 2000 areas of the Voordelta and the Vlakte van de Raan. Neither area is therefore eligible for designation as Natura 2000 areas.
The research was necessary in order to determine whether additional ecologically valuable areas would be eligible for specific protection besides the existing Natura 2000 areas, and is so, which ones. The National Water Plan 2009-2015 (NWP) states that a decision would be made on this by 2012 at the latest within the framework of the decision-making on the implementation of the Bird and Habitat Directives.