UNDP Around the world

Voices from Eurasia


Saving the Black Sea monster

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The Black Sea has always made my imagination go wild. Its darkness is unlike any other sea, so you can only imagine what is happening at the bottom of it.

In my childhood, I believed a mythical deep-water creature lived in there, breathing with the waves, powerful and moody. The sea lit up in the dark. And when the monster’s mood turned, animals were sometimes thrown out of the water.

Seeing now the latest scientific research from our environment project, I fear for this powerful monster. Our Black Sea is at risk. Its biodiversity will die a slow death if no actions are taken to protect it from human activity.

Despite all recent efforts to clean up the Black Sea, wastewater is still pouring in from all coastal regions, according to a recent survey I was lucky enough to work on.  Medical waste such as paracetamol, but also caffeine, sun lotion components, pesticides and flame retardants make up a deadly cocktail that’s been poisoning the fish, mollusks and algae.

There’s also huge concentrations of plastic, right in the middle of the sea, choking up water birds and mammals such as dolphins. Recently, we spotted a young dolphin, his body cut up by a plastic string. My guess is it will eventually kill him as he grows.

But there’s also hope. Near the shores of Georgia, for instance, there’s a very rare type of oyster that re-appeared after 35 years. That’s a sign of health. Generally speaking, the marine ecosystem is still strong enough to protect its “native citizens” from invasive species. Different dolphin species are thriving. That’s a rare thing. And we found new groups of microbes that are eating organic waste at the bottom of the sea.

Still, if we want to keep up the good work and limit further damage, we’ll be facing an uphill battle. We’ll have to transform people’s lifestyles and think differently and make the sea a priority. We will eventually have to ban plastic bags and other disposable items, and consume more responsibly. And we’ll advocate for greener industries.

I see all of these things as keeping that childhood monster alive. That’s why that mission is for me so personal.

Environment Ecosystems and biodiversity Blog post partnerships Georgia Russian Federation Ukraine Turkey Water and sanitation