Beach wrack management in the South Baltic region

Moin*! My name is Matej and I am a recent university graduate from Slovenia. I have spent the last 6 months in Rostock in northern Germany with the German Coastal Union. During this time, I have worked primarily on an Interreg project called CONTRA - COnverting a Nuisance To a Resource and Asset.

The “nuisance” in question is beach wrack. For those of you not very familiar with marine biology (I was certainly one of you before I started here as a volunteer!), beach wrack generally refers to the material that sporadically lands and accumulates on beaches. The most common “ingredients” of beach wrack are seagrass and algae, but it can also include marine litter, small rocks, bacteria, nutrients from industrial waste, heavy metal residue etc.

Because of my background in European studies/political science, I helped with researching the socioeconomic aspects of beach wrack management in the South Baltic region, where the project is taking place. This includes things like measuring the public opinion, e.g. how tourists, local residents, and beach wrack managers perceive beach wrack. Is it a positive, natural feature of the beach environment that can be used for many practical applications? Or is it something dirty, negative and undesired on those beaches meant mostly for tourism? I am also researching historical databases on how beach wrack used to be treated in the past and how this changed over time. Together with other project partners who are focusing on the ecology and applied economics, we are helping design up-to-date guidelines and recommendations for beach wrack managers. One of the outputs will be a report on the socioeconomic side of things, and I am happy to have been one of the main authors.

Despite the ongoing pandemic and lockdown measures, I was able to partake in a few field activities. Alongside my coworker and a local Member of European Parliament, I met local stakeholders, including beach managers and recycling company representatives that process the beach wrack into various useful outputs, such as fertilizer. I visited a research site with floating island platforms that are aimed to be used to revitalize degraded water ecosystems like lakes and lagoons. I also took part in two separate beach cleaning days.

Even though my experience was limited in some ways due to the present restrictions, I am still very happy to have been an IVY volunteer and to have learned so much about a new topic and a part of Europe I hadn’t known very well up to now. I would recommend becoming an IVY to everyone that is still undecided. If you have further questions about beach wrack, the IVY experience or anything in between, feel free to ask!

*Moin is the typical greeting used in northern Germany.

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