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

Preface Dedication Acknowledgements Authors
Executive Summary Introduction Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Conclusions and Recommendations References
Annexes 1 - 5 Annexes 6 - 9

Marine Litter in the Black Sea Region


Executive Summary

Marine Litter Report ML cover page


The human race is constantly consuming more goods and hence producing more waste. Unfortunately, this increasing amount of waste produced is not being efficiently collected, disposed of or processed properly. Due to the increased population in coastal areas; a very significant amount of litter finds its way to the seashore and marine environments. The problem is even greater in developing countries, where main targets are to increase economic growth and production where issues related to protecting the environment are a minor ‘priority’.

The Black Sea, with its densely populated coastal strip, is a “developing” region, especially considering its ever-increasing importance in energy extraction and transport, tourism, and fisheries. Marine litter, either originating from the vessels or from the shores or rivers, is a “visible” pollution problem along the coasts of the Black Sea, in the sea itself and on the bottom of the sea. Marine litter is also a transboundary problem in this enclosed sea basin which displays a very dynamic current system, enabling transportation of any matter from a given location in the Black sea to almost any coastal area. A great portion of the Marine Litter in our region is of non biodegradable nature, therefore, it is not an aesthetic problem simply, but it often seriously damages the living organisms and might threaten the biodiversity of the Black sea.

This is the most extensive publications written on Marine Litter of the Black Sea. This report evaluates existing data, policies, activities, and institutional arrangements concerning the Marine Litter in the Black Sea region and proposes several actions to deal with the problem. One of the main suggestions is the inclusion of major appropriate actions into the revised Strategic Action Plan, to be adopted in 2008.

Developing the necessary policy documents and strategic plans could be achieved relatively smoothly; however, educating the polluters proves the major challenge in dealing with the Marine Litter problem. Indeed, responsible citizenship could easily decimate this kind of pollution in a relatively short time.

Many people contributed to this report, i.e. authors, data and other information providers, staff of the Permanent Secretariat. The members of the Black Sea Commission supported strongly the preparation of this report, whilst UNEP-RSP provided the necessary funding. Thanks to all contributors for their efforts towards a “noticeably” cleaner Black Sea.

Dr Ahmet Erkan KIDEYS

Executive Director of the Permanent Secretariat

The Commission on the Protection of the Black Sea Against Pollution

Istanbul, December 2007

Marine litter is any persistent, manufactured or processed solid material discarded, disposed of or abandoned in the marine and coastal environment.

Marine litter consists of items that have been made or used by people and deliberately discarded into the sea or rivers or on beaches; brought indirectly to the sea with rivers, sewage, storm water or winds; accidentally lost, including material lost at sea in bad weather (fishing gear, cargo); or deliberately left by people on beaches and shores.

Marine Litter: An Analytical Overview (UNEP,2005)


In parallel to its urbanised life style, human is producing increasingly more litter. The Black Sea does not constitute an exception from global negative tendency towards a total coating of the hydrosphere with man-made debris. However, this problem is not properly addressed and managed yet on the regional and national levels. Bearing in mind that marine litter (ML) is a priority for both the Black Sea Commission (BSC) and the UNEP Regional Seas Programme, the latter organization provided support to the BSC Secretariat for the development of Regional Activity on ML in the Black Sea within the framework of the Strategic Action Plan on Rehabilitation and Protection of the Black Sea (BS SAP).

This report includes several sections and a summary for each section could be summarized as the following.

Methodology and expertise. In 2005, it was agreed between above competent bodies that the BSC Secretariat undertakes a series of actions aimed to address and restrain the ML problem. Those actions should provide among others the preparation of a basic Review Document on ML in the Black Sea region. It was decided that the document should include: the data on ML in the marine and coastal environment; the analysis of existing institutional arrangements, legal and administrative instruments, programmes and initiatives; the identification of gaps in the knowledge and needs in the coverage of ML management; and specific proposals and recommendations for changes for the better.

It was stated also that the regional Review Document should be based on appropriate national ML reports arranged in compliance with some standard questionnaire. Thus, the BSC Secretariat has designated one regional and six national consultants on ML (one specialist from each Black Sea country) and asked them to collect, analyze and present available information. The questionnaire was prepared in early 2006 and national ML reports were completed by the mid summer 2006. The first draft of the regional Review Document/Report under the title “Marine Litter in the Black Sea Region: A Review of the Problem” was considered, commented and then adopted by participants of the Special Session on ML within the 15th Meeting of the BSC Advisory Group on Pollution Monitoring and Assessment (Istanbul, 9-10 October 2006). Results of that session were supported by the 15th Regular Meeting of the BSC (Istanbul, 20-21 November 2006). The second draft, improved in accordance with comments by the national consultants and recommendations of the ML session, was submitted to the BSC Secretariat in December 2006 and then, in January 2007, to the UNEP Regional Seas Coordinating Office.

This is the third version of the Review Document on ML in the Black Sea Region. The structure and text of the report were strengthened owing to advices kindly provided by UNEP experts. The report consists of eight sections and supplemented with nine annexes.

The Black Sea environment in view of ML problem Geographical scope of the ML problem extends over the entire catchment area of the Black Sea drainage basin and includes the Black Sea proper; two satellite seas (the Sea of Azov and Marmara Sea); two straits connecting the Black Sea with the satellite seas (the Strait of Kerch and Istanbul Strait - otherwise known as Bosphorus); all rivers (along with their tributaries), flowing into the above maritime areas; coastal territories bordering to these maritime areas; and all land drained by the rivers and their confluents. Air masses shifting over the region add to the problem of ML accumulation and dissemination.

The pronounced horizontal stratification of the Black Sea water column, caused by hydrophysical and hydrochemical factors (gradients of temperature, salinity, oxygen and permanent anoxic layers with H2S) suggests different density of water mass on the margins and within all these strata. Thus, it could be supposed that the distribution of ML is also stratified in the sea in accordance with density (or flotation ability) of different ML items. The most dense ML objects sink and accumulate on the sea bottom, while the least dense ones drift on the sea surface and in time, sooner or later, become washed ashore. The third group of ML items (probably, vastly numerous in its absolute number) is suspended in the water column between the surface and bottom. The hypothesis of ML stratification consists in selective horizontal accumulation of certain suspended ML items following the thermocline, halocline and transitional layer between the oxygenated and anoxic waters.

Total population in the Black Sea catchment area exceeds 160-170 million, and daily activities of all these people in some way or other affect the Black Sea environment and, presumably, contribute to ML problem which is originated almost completely (but not only) from the problem of solid waste pollution. The ML problem is closely linked to major problems of public health, conservation of the environment, and sustainable development in the Black Sea region. ML originates from various land- and sea-based sources as a result of manifold human activities and, evidently, causes multivectorial negative impact on the population, wild life, abiotic nature and some sectors of economy. Floating ML and ML items suspended in the water are transported by currents and winds throughout the sea and, thereby, cause transboundary dissemination of solid wastes and basin-wide enlargement of the problem.

Besides, widespread distribution of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing in the Black and Azov Seas can be considered as a peculiar source of ML. That is true indeed regarding countless illegal nets and nets which were discarded or abandoned causing the so-called “ghost fishing”. High concentrations of fixed and floating IUU fishing gear in some areas result in the reduction of habitat space, formation of obstacles on migration ways and enhancement of incidental mortality (by-catch) of cetaceans, fishes and crustaceans. Although no special research on the abandoned nets has been conducted in the Black Sea region, the problem of “ghost fishing”, undoubtedly, exists at least in the shelf area.

National consultants on ML presented basic reference data regarding maritime areas and seashores of the Black Sea riparian states. This information could be useful for recognizing possible spread of ML in each country and, therefore, for planning ML research, monitoring and cleanup activities.

Legal and administrative instruments Black Sea ML is a matter of regulation to some extent (but so far always incompletely) by a series of legal acts aimed to harmonize various human activities on the international, regional and national levels. However, up to now there is no any juricidal instrument dedicated specifically to the management of ML problem for the marine and coastal environment in the Black Sea. Moreover, the concept of ML problem and “marine litter” itself, as a law-term in its proper definition (UNEP, 2005), are not accepted and even well-known in the Black Sea community.

The Black Sea states are the parties to several conventions and international agreements which are relevant to the management and mitigation of ML problem. The report contains information on these treaties including the Convention on the Protection of the Black Sea Against Pollution (the Bucharest Convention), the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL 73/78), the Convention for the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matter (the London Convention), the Convention on the Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal (the Basel Convention), and some other instruments which have indirect relation to the control of ML problem. The Bucharest Convention, MARPOL 73/78 and the Basel Convention are ratified by all six Black Sea states.

National consultants on ML indicated that the ML problem is regulated partially in their countries by a number of instruments concerned with various fields of public administration, social life and different human activities. Chronological lists of such legal and administrative instruments presented in the report consist of over 140 titles of heterogeneous documents which were adopted by the governments mainly during the last decade. The detailed comparative analysis of these instruments should be undertaken in the future, and appropriate recommendations on the harmonization and improvement of national legislation should appear as a result. Nevertheless, it seems pertinent to underline the most important points reflecting present situation:

·               All six Black Sea states are in transition process of developing and updating their national instruments aimed at combatting marine pollution including ML/ solid waste component. Actual rate of this process and concrete instruments developed are quite different in different countries.

·               However, general trends of this process regarding the ML problem are common in all Black Sea states: (a) to prohibit any deliberate discharge of potential ML at sea and on the shore; (b) to improve solid waste collection, processing, storage, disposal and recycling facilities; and (c) to enhance governmental control of activities mentioned in (a) and (b).

·               National policies in the Black Sea states are aimed at waste minimization, reuse, recycling and recovery of landfills. The major legislative and regulatory tools for waste management are adequately developed in the Black Sea countries, and include basic laws and regulations. Bulgaria and Romania, which were accepted to the EU in January 2007, transpose relevant EU directives and standards into their national legislation.

·               One of the main management problems affecting most Black Sea countries consists in imperfect ability to apply the existing laws and regulations. Being declared once, they should be implemented in a proper way but sometimes they do not work or work inadequately.

Institutional arrangements. This section of the report begins with basic information about intergovernmental organizations involved in ML issues on the global, European and Black Sea regional level (alphabetically): BSC, CIESM, EU, FAO, GESAMP, IMO, IOC, UNEP and WHO.

A wide variety of governmental organizations, NGOs and business establishments are concerned about marine and coastal pollution in the Black Sea states at the national and local level. Most of those entities, represented by ministerial and municipal structures and services, marine and sanitary inspectorates, research institutions and universities, port administrations, various agencies, companies and enterprises, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), are involved (or can be involved) in the activities addressing and combatting ML problem. Six separate sub-sections of the report are dedicated to national features of the institutional arrangements in each Black Sea country. The list of organizations and specialists related to the ML management, research, monitoring, cleanup operations, and public education in the region is annexed to the report.

Programmes and initiatives. So far, there was no Black Sea regional strategy, action plan or basin-wide programme that was specifically directed to address and solve the ML problem. However, during the period from 1996-2007 there were several international and Black Sea regional programmes and projects which were partly or marginally concerned in ML. The BS SAP (1996, amended in 2002) seems to be the most appropriate framework that could be supplemented with specific ML items of the regional significance. This document, being a basis for cooperative actions on the conservation and improvement of the Black Sea environment, already includes a series of cognate paragraphs relating to the reduction of pollution from land based sources, vessels and dumping, to the waste management, and to the assessment and monitoring of marine pollution.

The 15th Regular Meeting of the BSC (Istanbul, 20-22 November 2006) considered the achieved progress in implementation of the Black Sea Regional Activity on Marine Litter and approved the BSC Workplan for the year 2006/2007. Among other things, this workplan includes Paragraph 12 “Updating of the BS SAP”, with the final aim to adopt the new version of this strategic document at the Ministerial Meeting 2008. It was decided by the BSC members to use this opportunity and introduce specific ML actions into newly amended BS SAP.

National consultants on ML presented their comments regarding the priority of Black Sea ML problem and relevant strategic approaches in their countries. Most experts confirm that this problem constitutes a priority issue on the national level. However, up to now there is no any national strategy, action plan or programme specifically devoted to ML problem in any Black Sea state. At the same time, some strategic documents of national significance (e.g., environmental strategies for the coastal zone and waters, waste management programmes, etc.) are concerned with the ML problem at least in part. Besides, several ML-related projects were implemented during the last decade by the environmental NGOs on voluntary basis.

Scientific information on ML During the last decade, some governmental and private institutions and NGOs in Bulgaria, Russia, Turkey and Ukraine conducted ML research using different approaches and methods. However, national bibliographies on ML in the Black Sea region are still scant. There are very few peer reviewed scientific publications on this topic and most of those papers concern the solid waste management mainly.

Aerial ML surveys have been carried out in the Azov Sea, Kerch Strait and north-eastern shelf area of the Black Sea. Relative intensity of ML pollution in the Kerch Strait turned out to be almost as high as in the southern Azov Sea and twice as high as in the Black Sea waters off the northern Caucasus and eastern Crimea. The results of aerial surveys suggested that major quantity of ML comes to the Russian Black Sea in late spring and early summer. It was supposed that the level of ML pollution depends mainly on the level of river run-off in this area. Just river and rain torrents (which wash down the land-based solid waste) are considered as a principal source/supplier of ML in the territorial waters of Russia.

Important data on permanent sources of ML have been published by Turkish specialists. Solid waste management is one of the main environmental problems in the Black Sea region (Celik, 2002). It is reported that at the southern coast of the Black Sea, substantial amount of municipal and industrial solid wastes, sometimes mixed with hospital and hazardous wastes, are still dumped on the nearest lowlands and river valleys or directly on the seashore or even at sea. Such practice is widespread also in Georgia. Most uncontrolled coastal landfills and dumping sites are not protected from waves and, thus, serve as stationary sources of unknown (but certainly large) quantities of ML. The continuing accumulation of solid wastes on the coast may cause a growth of ML in the marine environment due to spontaneous removal of the wastes from the dumps into the sea by erosive factors such as waves, rains and winds. At the same time, the sea currents and winds play a role of ML dissemination factors contributing to the transport of floating litter. Thus, the land-based solid wastes continue to constitute major source of ML for the Black Sea as a whole. Therefore, ML is a significant region-wide transboundary problem.

Vessel-based line transect surveys have been carried out to study levels of ML pollution in Ukrainian part of the Kerch Strait and within the entire 12-miles-wide territorial waters of Ukraine in the Black Sea. As a result, quantitative values of floating plastic ML (general density, absolute amount and aggregate mass) were estimated. For instance, general density of floating plastic was estimated as 6.6 and 65.7 pieces/km2 in the Ukrainian Black Sea and Kerch Strait, correspondingly.

Greater numerical predominance of plastic ML (80–98%) has been determined in comparison with glass ML (2–20%) on the wild (unmanageable) beaches of Crimea, Ukraine, during different seasons. The density of beachfront pollution by polymeric garbage varied from 333 to 6,250 kg/km2, while the density of glass ML fluctuated between 222 and 1,455 kg/km2.

A series of diving surveys for ML has been realized in different sites within the boundaries of Istanbul city. Most pieces of the litter recorded were manufactured from glass (31%), plastic (25%) and metal (21%). A tendency of ML accumulation on the bottom of certain areas was observed. Solid wastes covered up the ground and local communities of benthic organisms. The abandoned fishing nets were found (and removed). Some representatives of the marine fauna (including cephalopods and crustaceans) were recorded to be by-caught in the “ghost” fishing gear. The concentration of ML collected in different places of the Turkish Black Sea coast varied from 58 to 1,395 kg per linear kilometer of the coastline.

This section of the report presents also expert views on ML pollution provided by the national consultants. According to interiew data, most visitors of Bulgarian beaches (up to 90%) appreciated local climatic conditions but did not like rubbish on the coast. The opinion of holiday-makers was that ML strongly (or very strongly) affects quality of a beach.

Gaps and needs in coverage of ML management According to expert valuation by national consultants on ML, at least seven actions or groups of actions deserve high prioritization on the national level: correction of waste management policy; improvement of legal and administrative instruments; development of sustainable ML management; development of ML monitoring methodology; national assessment of ML pollution; preparation of proposals to prevent and reduce ML; and preparation of awareness and educational tools.

Meantime, the Special Session on ML of the 15th Meeting of the BSC Advisory Group on Pollution Monitoring and Assessment (Istanbul, 9-10 October 2006) agreed that the major gaps and needs in coverage of ML management on the regional level consist of the following eight items:

(a) underdevelopment of waste management policy and, particularly, its incompleteness and low efficiency in respect of ML issues;

(b) imperfection and disbalance of legal and administrative instruments developed for solid waste and ML management;

(c) lack of common ML monitoring and assessment approach based on the standardized methodologies and assessment criteria;

(d) deficiency of practical measures to prevent and reduce ML pollution;

(e) technological lag in respect to contemporary methods and devices for collection, processing, recycling and disposal of solid wastes and ML;

(f) insufficiency of public awareness/education regarding ML problem;

(g) low level of involvement of general public and private sector in combatting ML pollution;

(h) gaps in professional knowledge on ML issues among managers and authorities involved in the protection of the Black Sea against pollution.

Proposals for changes, conclusions and recommendations National ML consultants made helpful suggestions and formulated some project proposals aimed to address and slacken the ML problem in their countries. Participants of the Special Session on ML (Istanbul, October 2006) proposed a list of high priority actions to be included in the Regional ML Action Plan. The both sets of commended activities are summarized in Section 7 of the report, while Section 8 contains final conclusions and recommendations. Taking into account suggestions, a “Draft Strategic Action Plan for the Management and Abatement of Marine Litter in the Black Sea Region (BS-ML-SAP)” has been drafted as presented in Annex 9.


The overloading of oceans and seas with floating marine litter (ML) and its growing accumulation on the coasts is one of major environmental problems world-wide (UNEP, 2005). It is generally recognized that ML superfluity exerts negative influence on marine and coastal ecosystems, health status of seaside population and normal development of sea-oriented economics including tourist industry, fishery and shipping.

The Black Sea does not constitute an exception from global tendency towards a total coating of the hydrosphere with man-made debris. However, this problem is not properly addressed so far on the regional and national scale, and even actual levels of ML pollution are not adequately evaluated and monitored in the riparian countries. In view of existing gaps in the knowledge, certain national and international effort should be applied to gain necessary basic information.

The Governing Council decision 22/2 IIIA on the UNEP Regional Seas Programme, calls for the utilization of the Regional Seas conventions and Action Plans as a platform for the regional implementation of multilateral environmental agreements and global programmes and initiatives. In the resolution on “Oceans and the law of the sea” (A/59/L.22 adopted as resolution 59/25), in paragraph 92, it is recommended that Consultative Process during its deliberations on the report of the Secretary General, should organize its discussions around, among others, marine debris. The 8th special session of the UNEP Governing Council/Global Ministerial Environment Forum, held in Jeju, Republic of Korea, from 29 to 31 March 2004, at its 6th plenary meeting on 31 March, adopted the decision SS.VIII/4 on Waste management, on the basis of drafts approved and submitted by the Committee of the Whole.

The problem of marine litter was recognized by the UN General Assembly, which in its Resolution A/60/L.22 - Oceans and the Law of the Sea - of 29 November 2005 in articles 65-70 calls for national, regional and global actions to address the problem of marine litter. This GA resolution notes the lack of information and data on marine debris, encourages States to develop partnerships with industry and civil society, urges States to integrate the issue of marine debris within national environmental strategies, and encourages States to cooperate regionally and subregionally to develop and implement joint prevention and recovery programmes for marine debris. In response to the GA call, UNEP (GPA and the Regional Seas Programme), through its Global Marine Litter Initiative took an active lead in addressing the challenge, among others, by assisting 11 Regional Seas around the world in organizing and implementing regional activities on marine litter (Baltic Sea, Black Sea, Caspian Sea, East Asian Seas, Eastern Africa, Mediterranean Sea, Northwest Pacific, Red Sea and Gulf of Aden, South Asian Seas, South East Pacific, and Wider Caribbean).

Within the above mentioned context, and within the context of UNEP’s support to the Black Sea Commission (BSC), bearing in mind that ML is a priority activity for both the BSC and for UNEP’s Regional Seas Programme, UNEP has provided support to the BSC Secretariat for the development of Regional Activity on ML in the Black Sea within the framework of the Strategic Action Plan on Rehabilitation and Protection of the Black Sea (BS SAP).

The objective of this activity is to assist in the environmental protection and sustainable management and development of the Black Sea region through the development of a Regional Activity on ML within the framework of BS SAP. A draft amendment to the BS SAP to include this Regional Activity on ML will be developed under the Memorandum of Understanding signed between the BSC Secretariat and the UNEP’s Regional Seas Coordinating Office in 2005. In particular, this document envisages that such amendment be approved by the Contracting Parties to the Convention on the Protection of the Black Sea Against Pollution (i.e., by Bulgaria, Georgia, Romania, Russian Federation, Turkey and Ukraine).

It is expected that the BS SAP, signed in 1996, based on the Transboundary Diagnostic Analysis carried out by the Black Sea Environmental Programme will be substantially updated in 2008 when the next meeting of the Contracting Parties to the Convention on the Protection of the Black Sea Against Pollution is to take place. The amendment proposal on ML, worked out in compliance with the current Memorandum of Understanding should be incorporated with the new draft Strategic Action Plan and after that submitted to the BSC for approval and than for consultations at the country level. After the successful national negotiation procedures, the Ministers of Environment of the six coastal states are expected to sign the new Strategic Action Plan at the meeting in 2008 and thus the provisions of the Regional Activity on ML document (as presented in Annex 9) may obtain some legal status in the Black Sea region.

Under the terms of the Memorandum of Understanding, the BSC Secretariat, in consultation with the UNEP Regional Seas Coordinating Office, shall undertake a series of actions regarding the addressing ML problem in the Black Sea region.

This report depends on Activity A of the Memorandum: Preparation of a Review Document on ML in the Black Sea Region, on both the national and regional levels, which will include, among others: collection and review of existing institutional arrangements; data and information on ML in the marine and coastal environment; legal and administrative instruments; programmes and initiatives; identification of gaps and needs in coverage of marine litter management; proposals for changes and recommendations.

Such Review document should be based on national reports based on standard questionnaires and their compilation and other available documents and information, such as relevant scientific papers and other sources and literature. A questionnaire (a template of National Report on the state of ML problem in the Black Sea region) has been prepared by the Regional Consultant on ML and filled in by the National Consultants. The questionnaire is enclosed to this report as Annex 1.