Travels with Paddles

a sea kayaking journal

Axel Schoevers (Photo: A. de Krook) Name:
Axel Schoevers
Rijswijk, Zuid-Holland, Netherlands

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Doesn't sound right

In the weekend of 5 to 7 Augustus 2011 international championship powerboat races are held off Den Helder.

As a sea kayaker I feel strongly involved with the Nature values of the Waddensea. Besides enjoying nature and the sport of sea kayaking, there rests also a clear responsibility on the sea kayaker on how to sensibly deal with the natural environment. Even when choice of destinations and routes become more regulated, as has been the case in recent years, with the expansion of prohibited areas in the Waddensea.

It is unbelievable that the Province of North-Holland has issued a 5-year license for this Grand Prix of the Sea event. An event that can act as precedent for further polluting activities (power boating) in this environmentally sensitive area. Note that only in 2009, with great national publicity and pride, the whole Waddensea was granted Unesco World Heritage Site status. This event is not something the Province can be proud of.

I can only guess to what extend noise levels regulations will be exceeded during this event. Observing the rather short and very winding 'race-track' close to shore, public and housing estates, I wonder if all environmental and safety risks have been fully addressed.

Furthermore what will be the impact on the seals and birds on the Noorderhaaks sand spit prohibited area? When, in de days before and after the event, everything that has 'power' will congregate at Den Helder and sure want to 'race' around Noorderhaaks. Whether or not staying (just) outside of any prohibited area's, the noise will be horrendous and continuous. Currently this IS already sometimes an issue with jet-ski's. Experience of the past years shows that the seals (and high-water-refuge resting birds) do not care about the restricted areas and can be found in numbers at any place on and off the Noorderhaaks sand spit.

Within the Dutch sea kayaking community there is a continuous awareness building effort to have all sea kayakers understand their possible negative impact on nature and advice them of the do's and don'ts. Personally I am now much more aware than just five years ago. And then this happens... We're set back twenty years.

It remains to be seen how badly our annual Peddelpraat sea kayaking week is affected by this event that runs in the same week. Peddelpraat can start to plan leaving North Holland and look for another venue for it's sea instruction week. Where to go?

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