The Europaen Commission The Commission on the Protection of the Black Sea Against Pollution
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Preface Opening Speech by H.E. Mr. Osman Pepe, Minister of Environment and Forestry, Turkey Opening Speech by Prof. Hasan Sarikaya, Chairman of the Commission on the Protection of the Black Sea Against Pollution Scientific Priorities as perceived by the Black Sea scientific community List of Participants

1st Biannual Scientific Conference

The Black Sea Ecosystem 2006 and Beyond

Opening Speech of the Chairman of the Commission on the Protection of the Black Sea Against Pollution

Prof. Hasan Sarikaya, Chairman - Commission on Protection of the Black Sea Against Pollution

The unprecedented pressure from human activities on the Black Sea ecosystem arising from the peculiar features of this marine ecosystem as the most isolated sea resulted in dramatic environmental changes over last few decades.  The catchment area of the Black Sea includes major parts of seventeen countries and the second, third, and fourth largest rivers in Europe, respectively the Danube, Dnipro and Don rivers.

Annually over 600   thousand tons nitrogen, 50 thousand tons of phosphorus are being discharged from land-based sources.   The amount of oil transported via Black Sea nearly doubled, number of tourists visiting Black Sea coasts is increasing from year to year.

Assessment of the impact from land-based sources and human activities of more than 160 million people living in the Black Sea basin conducted by the BSEP Transboundary Diagnostic Analysis in 1995-1996 allowed to identify the priority environmental problems of the Black Sea that required the concerted response of the Black Sea coastal states and basin-wide cooperation, namely: eutrophication, oil pollution, overfishing  and invasive species.

The global climate change and its impact on the Black Sea ecosystem becomes more and more meaningful emerging problem.

Recognizing the drastic decline of the Black Sea ecosystem, its subsequent impact on the Black Sea living resource, wellbeing and health of coastal population the six countries that border the sea signed the Convention on the Protection of the Black Sea Against Pollution in Bucharest, Romania, in April 1992 (the Bucharest Convention, or the Black Sea Convention).

The Contracting Parties to the Convention on the Protection of the Black Sea Against Pollution  - Bulgaria, Georgia, Romania, Russian Federation, Turkey and Ukraine, committed themselves to

“…take individually or jointly, as appropriate, all necessary measures consistent with international law and in accordance with the provisions of this Convention to prevent, reduce and control pollution thereof in order to protect and preserve the marine environment of the Black Sea”  (Article 5, paragraph 3)

Three Protocols to the Black Sea Convention are enforced in the Black Sea Coastal States.  In 2003 the Black Sea Biodiversity and Landscape Conservation Protocol was signed and is being ratified by the member states of the Bucharest Convention.

Supported by the Global Environmental Facilities the Member States of the Black Sea Convention through the Black Sea Environmental Program, using  the Transboundary Diagnostic Analysis Report, developed and signed in 1996 the Strategic Action Plan for Rehabilitation and Protection of the Black Sea. This document accepted the guiding principles of the international cooperation in the Black Sea and coordinated efforts have been undertaken by the Black Sea Coastal States.

As a result of strong European policies the discharge of nutrients and organic matter stemming to the Black Sea with Danube waters was reduced 2 fold comparing to 1997.  The Black Sea coastal states address the issue of reducing discharges of nutrients and pollutants from rivers by developing and implementing river management plans.  As reported to the Black Sea Commission such plans are prepared or being prepared in all Black Sea costal states, including river basin management programs for such large rivers as Danube, Dnipro, Dnister, Anatolian watershed in Turkey. 

Addressing land-based sources of pollution as a major source of nutrients and cause of eutrophication, the Black Sea coastal states eliminated 2 hot spots from the list of the 47 hot spots in the Black Sea and significantly improved treatment of municipal discharges into the Black Sea by attracting significant national and international investments in this sector.   Basin-wide cooperation was established through the Danube-Black Sea Initiative (DABLAS).

In order to enhance cooperation in the pollution reduction from land-based sources and activities, revised LBSA Protocol is under negotiation among the Black Sea coastal states.

Significant progress was achieved in setting up Black Sea monitoring program, increasing number of monitoring stations only in Turkey from 3 to 66.  Significant work is being done by the Black Sea Commission, supported by the Black Sea Ecosystem Recovery Project and the European Commission in setting up  proper quality assurance/quality control system.

The rising risk of accidental oil spills from maritime transport is clearly visible from the almost doubled number of tankers passing the narrow Istanbul strait  since 1997 which can have dramatic consequences for the coastal population and marine environment in case of major accidents.  Two fold increase of transport of Russian and Caspian oil via the Black Sea, particularly through Russian and Georgian marine ports, is expected.

Progressing exploration of oil and gas deposits in  the Black Sea  proper in Ukraine and Turkey, Romanian oil rigs and potential expansion of oil terminals and oil pipelines in Bulgaria  calls for the strengthening of safety measures and setting up the up-to-date oil spill response system.

The Black Sea Contingency Plan developed by the Black Sea Commission’s institutional network and signed by the Black Sea coastal states became operational and is quickly evolving.

In January 2006 the first Black Sea BRAVO drill was initiated and conducted by Bulgaria, the second drill  will be repeated in the second quarter of 2006 by Georgia and elements of the Black Sea Contingency plan will be tested in June, 2006 during bilateral Russian –Turkish exercise.  Realizing the precautionary principle stated in the Strategic Action Plan for Rehabilitation and Protection of the Black Sea (1996, amended 2002) the Commission on the Protection of the Black Sea Against Pollution aimed its efforts at the preparedness and preventive actions in dealing with potential oil spills.

The fisheries that almost collapsed in the mid 80s in recent years shows signs of recovery, exceeding 400 thousand tons of catch in 2004.  Recognizing the importance  of sustainable fisheries for the Black Sea people the Black Sea Commission negotiate a draft fisheries agreement in order to ensure that available fisheries resources are properly protected and exploited. 

The harmonization of the stock assessment methodologies conducted in the framework of the Black Sea institutional network will lead to the first coordinated Black Sea stock assessment.

Pursuing the objectives of the Black Sea Biodiversity and Landscape Conservation Protocol additional protected areas appeared on the map of the Black Sea coastal zone in Romania.  

Preparatory work is being conducted for establishment of trasboundary marine protected areas between Bulgaria and Romania, and marine protected areas in Ukraine.   The List of Species of Black Sea Importance and List of Species Whose Exploitation should be regulated have been approved by the Black Sea Commission and became an integral part of the Black Sea Biodiversity Protocol.  In close cooperation with ACCOBAMS the preparation of the first Black Sea assessment of cetaceans is in preparation.

The integrated coastal zone management is in focus of the Black Sea Commission and promoted in the Black Sea Coastal States, corresponding Black Sea ICZM strategy  is also under preparation.

Recent studies conducted by the Black Sea Ecosystem Recovery Project, information reported to the Black Sea Commission and other reports prepared by different projects and organizations indicate recent signs of recovery of the Black Sea ecosystem that look quite promising. 

The Black Sea experiences lesser algae blooms, the increasing number of benthic species reported by countries and projects, gives hopes that the system can reach new balance through which it could provide sustainable support to marine life and human needs.  However, to the great extent these positive changes occurred due to the 1990s economic decline in most of the Black Sea states. 

Prevention of new cycle of catastrophic deterioration of the Black Sea ecosystem under conditions of economic recovery in the region is the main challenge which the countries in the Black Sea basin are facing currently.  

Following the provisions of the Strategic Action Plan for Rehabilitation and Protection of the Black  Sea the Black Sea Commission conducts in depth analysis  of its  implementation. 

This analysis will be complimented by updated Black Sea Transboundary Diagnostic Analysis, performed by BSERP, and its findings will be reflected in the updated Black Sea Strategic Plan that will be signed in 2007 during the Meeting of the Contracting Parties to the Bucharest Convention. It is expected that the New Plan will be based on solid scientific knowledge.

The dilemma that every decision maker faces in the modern society is how to integrate  interdisciplinary, holistic knowledge, ecosystem approach into decision making, how to translate the knowledge in an information  that could be understood by policy makers and  how to weigh risk of not –doing  with incomplete knowledge or  its absence.

The 1st Biannual Scientific Conference “Black Sea Ecosystem 2005 and Beyond” where I have the pleasure to welcome you is provisioned in the Black Sea Strategic Action Plan but I hope that since now on it will become an effective  tool for  the regular communication of the Black Sea Commission and scientific community.

The main objectives of the conference are to identify research priorities for the Black Sea as well as to give advice to the Black Sea Commission on indicators of the Black Sea ecosystem state and reference conditions that will allow to conduct assessment of efficiency of policy measures. 175 abstracts that were received by the Organizing Committee give me a hope that these objectives will be achieved.

The results of the Conference will be taken into the State of the Black Sea Environment Report prepared for the Meeting of the Contracting Parties to the Black Convention in 2007 as well as the research priorities will be taken into consideration.