Survey finds proliferation of Black Sea pollutants

Jun 1, 2017

Samples reveal hundreds of new chemicals; mobile application deployed to help revive affected waters.

New York, 1 June – The Black Sea has twice as much floating plastic as any other sea in Europe, according to an environmental survey funded by the European Union (EU) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

Using new sampling techniques, the study also identified 145 pollutants in water, fish and mollusks, including flame retardants, mercury, pharmaceuticals and components used in sun lotion. These are now stored in the first marine database of its kind. The research was carried out in the territorial waters of Georgia, the Russian Federation and Ukraine by a team of 20 scientists.

“The bad news is we’re starting to see clear evidence of widespread pollution in the Black Sea. But there’s also good news. We can now detect toxic chemicals instantly and without the need for additional re-sampling,” said Jaroslav Slobodnik, a marine researcher who oversaw the survey.

The study also detected a rapid rise to the surface of the sea’s poisonous hydrogen sulfide layer, potentially suffocating animals and plankton less than 100 meters deep and with climate change likely to blame.

But there are also bright spots, the survey indicates. The Black Sea is home to thousands of dolphins, suggesting that fish stocks may not be as low as in other seas. In addition, the shallower northwestern waters of the Black Sea seemed healthier after the EU invested euro 13-billion into restoring the Danube river basin.

To encourage people to take action, UNDP developed a mobile application, called “Black Sea SaveBook”, allowing anyone to geo-locate water plants and mollusks, dolphins and marine litter. That data is now being processed in Ukraine.

“We’re essentially creating the Facebook of the sea,” said Slobodnik. Last year alone, he said, UNDP mobilized hundreds of volunteers to clean up beaches and inventory litter.

The study reiterates the vital importance of reducing the prevalence of toxic chemicals in circulation, urging governments to halt the spread of plastic litter and to remove or ban persistent pollutants.

Sponsored by UNDP and the EU, the Environmental Monitoring in the Black Sea project aims to improve the protection of the Black Sea environment. The project is addressing the overall need for support in protection and restoring the environmental quality and sustainability of the Black Sea.


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Olena Marushevska,


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