The Europaen Commission The Commission on the Protection of the Black Sea Against Pollution
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Report Contents

Acknowledgements 1. Introduction 2 Challenges 3 The Basis for Cooperative Action 4 Policy Actions Conclusions
Annex I. Basis for Cooperative Measures Annex II. Policy Actions Annex III. LBS Report 2007: Land Based Pressures on the Black Sea Annex VI. Nationally Reported Date Annex V. Black Sea Monitoring And Assessment Program
List of Tables List of Figures

Implementation of the Strategic Action Plan for the Rehabilitation and Protection of the Black Sea

2002 - 2007

Implementation of the Strategic Action Plan for the Rehabilitation and Protection of the Black Sea

2. Challenges

1.    The Black Sea ecosystem continues to be threatened by inputs of certain pollutants, notably nutrients. Nutrients enter the Black Sea from land based sources, and in particular through rivers. The Danube river accounts for well over half of the nutrient input to the Black Sea. Eutrophication is a phenomenon which occurs over wide areas of the Black Sea and should be of concern to the countries of the Black Sea basin.

Findings presented in the National Gap Analysis Reports (2007) justify that eutrophication is still a challenge at regional and national levels even though there are substantial improvements in the north western shelf of the Black Sea. According to the comparison of nutrient loads from different sources presented in TDA 2007, the major route of transfer of DIN and P-PO4 is still the riverine inputs to which Danube continues to contribute more than the other rivers. However, it is difficult to assess in full the contribution of other rivers to the total riverborne nutrient transport since the regime of them have not been everywhere identified properly yet because of lack of systematic monitoring with statistically significant frequency of observations. The second major pathway of DIN load is the atmospheric deposition that said to contribute at a level of 28-45%. Though there is not enough monitoring data to validate the atmospheric deposition models, these figures clearly show the importance of the atmospheric DIN deposition that also counts for the importance of atmospheric emissions. Direct discharges from large waste water treatment plants counts around 8% of the P-PO4 loads where the contribution of Istanbul Strait makes 21%. 

The economic growth of the region as well as the population increase in the urban and rural coastal areas will obviously continue to be a pressure which will eventually be the direct causes of eutrophication if the necessary measures are not planned and applied.

2.    Inputs of insufficiently treated sewage result in the presence of microbiological contaminants, which constitute a threat to public health and in some cases pose a barrier to the development of sustainable tourism and aquaculture.

Even though a lot of measures have been taken for the untreated sewage, it is still a problem for some parts of the coastal BS. Especially, most of the rural coastal population is still not connected to a sewer system. The number of waste water treatment plants or the level of treatment at the available plants are still not enough to combat with sewage discharges even in the urban areas. Additionally, treatment of storm waters and prevention of littering of the coastal areas could be treated similarly. Bacteriological pollution and littering due to these sources is a possible barrier for the development of sustainable tourism and aquaculture in the region.

3.    In addition, inputs of other harmful substances, and especially oil, continue to threaten the Black Sea ecosystem. Oil enters the environment as a result of accidental and operational discharges from vessels, as well as through land based sources. Almost half of the inputs of oil from land based activities are brought to the Black Sea via the Danube river. 

Relatively high contamination levels of some pesticides, heavy metals and PCBs are present at specific sites in the Black Sea, with illegal dumping/discharges (particularly of agrochemicals) being recognised as a particular problem (TDA, 2007). The historically poor enforcement of discharge standards and a failure to consider the Sea itself as a receiving waterbody for discharges to rivers have been considered to be the principal reasons underlying the pollution status of the Sea.  During the last years the standards have been revised in some of the Black Sea states and enforcement strengthened.

Besides well known sources of pollution, progressive interest to exploration and exploitation of the Black Sea shelf deposits of oil and gas pose a new threat and increased risk of pollution to the Black Sea ecosystem. Additionally, the high volume of oil being transported across the Black Sea has also increased the risk of oil pollution. Intensive shipping and oil platforms (sea-based oil pollution) is seemingly more important than the land-based oil activities in the region. However, the comprehensive assessment of oil pollution sources contribution for the 1990s (based on in situ data, Black Sea Pollution Assessment, eds. L. Mee and G. Topping, UN Publications, New York, 1999) showed the rivers and other land based sources as the main contributors to oil pollution in the Black Sea, compared to rather low values of accidental spillages from ships. Since 2001 the situation has not been changed and the accidental oil pollution is even at a lower level than in the 1990s.

Eventhough the illegal oil discharges have not been properly assessed yet, it has been initiated under the umbrella of the BSC through inviting JRC to cooperation and concluding with an MOU. The EC Joint Research Centre (Tarchi et al., 2006) undertook an assessment of sea-based oil pollution (most of it due to illegal discharges) using remote sensing imagery for the period 1999-2004, showing likely spills along the main shipping routes: Odessa – Istanbul and Novorossiysk – Istanbul. A substantial concentration of likely oil spills was also detected in the area where the Istanbul Strait enters the Black Sea.

The annual number of likely spills/illicit discharges detected in this study is shown in the Table bellow. The time-scale over which the study was carried out is too short to determine whether the situation has improved or not during recent years. In any case, the illegal discharges are an order of higher magnitude compared to accidental oil spills.  

SAR images analyzed and likely oil spills detected for the years 2000, 2001, 2002, 2004 (after Tarchi et al, 2006).


SAR Images analyzed

No. of likely spills detected

Spills per image





















Implementation of the preventive and anticipatory principles to this sector shall become a national and regional challenge. To combat accidental pollution and illegal discharges where intense marine transport of oil and other NHSs (noxious and harmful substances) in the region take place should also be considered as a challenge.

4.    Moreover, the past introduction of exotic species, through the deballasting of vessels, has seriously damaged the Black Sea ecosystem and constitutes a threat to the adjacent Mediterranean and Caspian Seas.

The considerable number of records of new aliens between 1996 and 2005 show that the Black Sea is still a favorable region by those transported especially with ballast waters.   Therefore, the prediction and prevention of invasion by potentially harmful species continues to be a challenge for the Black Sea.

5.    Inadequate resources management and, in particular, inadequate policies with respect to fisheries and coastal zone management continue to impede the sustainable development of the Black Sea region. Most fish stocks in the Black Sea, already stressed as a consequence of pollution, have been over exploited or are threatened by over exploitation; many coastal areas have deteriorated as a result of erosion and uncontrolled urban and industrial development, including the resultant construction activities. Consequently, there is a serious risk of losing valuable habitats and landscape and ultimately, the biological diversity and productivity of the Black Sea ecosystem.

Due to over fishing in the early 1970s-1980s, the structure of catches has shifted from predatory to non-predatory species significantly. Total fish landings are now about half of what they were in the mid 1980s. Marine living resources have been greatly affected not only by over-fishing but also by alien species introductions, eutrophication and habitats change/damage.

Eventhough there are some recent improvements in fish catch statistics and in predatory fish catches, turbot, sturgeon, dogfish and whiting catches have not shown similar trends and unsustainable fishing practices are still commonly used in the region. 

The challenge in this sector would be the development of the regional cooperation and Black Sea wide implementation of the principles of sustainable fisheries.

6.    The above considerations led to suggestions that the process of degradation of the Black Sea is irreversible. However, environmental monitoring, conducted over the past 4-5 years, reflects perceptible and continued improvements in the state of, some localised components of the Black Sea ecosystem. These improvements appear to be the indirect result of reduced economic activity in the region, and to a certain degree of protective measures taken by governments. The challenge which the region now faces is to secure a healthy Black Sea environment at a time when economic recovery and further development are also being pursued.

Keeping the Black Sea environment healthy at a time when economic recovery and further development are also being pursued is considered being the challenge of number one priority for all Black Sea coastal states. It puts a strong demand for full implementation of all principles. These include continuous national and regional efforts to control discharges and all human activities to damage biodiversity and habitats of the Sea. 

7.    This Strategic Action Plan is a step in the process towards attaining sustainable development in the Black Sea region. Its overall aims are to enable the population of the Black Sea region to enjoy a healthy living environment in both urban and rural areas, and to attain a biologically diverse Black Sea ecosystem with viable natural populations of higher organisms, including marine mammals and sturgeons, and which will support livelihoods based on sustainable activities such as fishing, aquaculture and tourism in all Black Sea countries.

The analysis made in the draft SAP (2008) on the subject:

The 1996 BS SAP was a groundbreaking document for the Black Sea region which established specific targets and timetables for implementing the objectives of the 1992 Bucharest Convention. However, it was an overly ambitious document and very few of the targets were accomplished on time. Furthermore, the 1996 BS SAP also suffered from problems of enforcement of national environmental laws and legislation, and the lack of a regional mechanism to ensure compliance with different policy actions[1]. An amendment in 2002 (the 2002 Sofia Declaration) aimed to resolve some of these issues.

The 2008 BS SAP has been formulated through careful consideration of inter alia the 1996 SAP, the 2007 BS TDA and the 2007 BS SAP Gap Analysis. It aims to help resolve the transboundary environmental problems of the Black Sea and is a joint effort of all the Black Sea countries. The SAP was elaborated from consensus reached at a multinational level in relation to a series of proposals that include: Ecosystem Quality Objectives (EcoQOs); short, medium and long term targets, and legal and institutional reforms necessary to solve main environmental problems identified within the 2007 BS TDA.. The process of elaboration of the SAP was characterized by the participation and commitment of the main stakeholders and key institutions of the Black Sea coastal states.