Length: 12 km + belt in the hinterland up to 1,000 m
Altitude: 0-3 m
Protection status: Velika plaža has been protected as a natural reserve since 1968, Emerald site under the Bern Convention
Coordinates: 41°53’36.69″N, 19°17’47.47″E
Velika plaža is the longest Adriatic beach and stretches from the mouth of the channel Port Milena into the Adriatic (cape Đerani) to the right arm of the Bojana River (where it flows into the Adriatic Sea). The beach is sandy with, today, degraded dunes in the hinterland. Behind the dunes there is a belt of brackish marshes that are at sea level, and the remnants of floodplain forests. On the outermost east part of the beach, alongside Bojana River (it occupies 4 km of beach and hinterland), there is a swamp with the saline water and typical brackish vegetation Juncus and Tamarix. It is part of the “Green Belt Europe”.
Ornithological importance of Velika plaža was earlier reflected in significant breeding sites, especially collared pratincole, stone curlews and oystercatchers. Today, it is a fragmented habitat, and only occasional nests could be found, of waders (plover and mullet) and at the remains of flooded forests nests of the European roller, Coracias garrulous, Levant sparrowhawk and Accipiter brevipes. The beach is particularly important during migration: it is the “spring board” for the trip via Italy, Sicily and Malta to Africa and shelter for birds after wintering. Beside the Salina, Ada Bojana Island and Paratuk Island, it is one of the key coastal places on the migratory path across the Adriatic. The Beach meets the standards for the inclusion into the Ramsar list of wetlands of international importance because in its hinterland, in the swamp, where an illegal road was built, almost 1% of the European population of Baillon’s Crake, Porzana pusilla, breeds. Brijeg od mora village is a significant breeding site for larks, stone curlews, bee-eatersand important feeding area for most species in the delta. There is in amazing number of the wood lark, Lullula arborea, registered as well.
The shallow waters of the Adriatic alongside Velika plaža are ideal for feeding and resting of birds during migration. Large amount of food has been left out of the sea on the sandy beach. In the hinterland of the beach, at the dunes, there are endangered coastal plants, which disappeared from other beaches on the Adriatic, because of urbanisation and tourist pressure. Behind the dunes, there is swamp vegetation with Juncus sp., Phragmites sp, Tamarix sp… Brijeg od mora village is a large pasture with a sandy surface. In the winter is flooded and in summer, slightly processed.
PROTECTION MEASURES – VULNERABILITY OF HABITATS AND SPECIES
Velika plaža and Brijeg od mora village are the hunting grounds of the local hunting club. During the spring and winter months they are a battlefield for hunting of tired migratory birds from Africa and numerous farmland birds. During summer and fall, they are ideal battlefield for doves and other species that migrate over Ulcinj. Velika plaža is one of the most popular seaside destinations in Montenegro. Tourist pressure is big and control of their movement is ignored. Dunes are converted into parking places and beach hinterland is flattened for flying motor kites. The rapid tourist development of the region is causing the illegal construction of tourist infrastructure. Construction of new hotel complexes along the beach will significantly threaten not only bird habitats, but also other groups of animals that choose Velika plaža as their habitat. However, the fact that key spatial plans (Master plan for tourism DEG, spatial plan for the Coastal Zone) include part of the Velika plaža as a protected area (4 km of the beach to the hinterland). Unfortunately, the Velika plaža has not been recognised as the protected area in a number of strategic documents since 1968.
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