Protecting the environment and enhancing cooperation in the Black Sea region is the major objective in the work of the Commission on the Protection of the Black Sea Against Pollution (The Black Sea Commission BSC) through attracting international and national donors, capacity building, active involvement of governmental and non-governmental organizations, public and private sector, and stimulating good political will in the Black Sea Region.
The BSC possesses co-operation links and options for consultative conversation with other intergovernmental organizations involved in marine pollution prevention and management as well as conservation of nature at the global and regional level, including the GEF/UNDP, United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), International Maritime Organization (IMO), World Health Organization (WHO), UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO, Mediterranean Science Commission (CIESM), Group of Experts on the Scientific Aspects of Marine Environmental Protection (GESAMP), IAEA (International Atomic Agency), private sector (e.g. OSPRI Oil Spill Preparedness Initiative in the Black Sea) and different institutions of the European Union (EU) especially EC DG Environment, EEA (European Environmental Agency), EMSA (European Maritime Safety Agency), JRC (Joint Research Center), European Topic Center on Biodiversity, amongst others.
The BSC Secretariat has also relations or Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) with the secretariats of the CBD (Conservation of Biodiversity), Bern Convention, HELCOM (Baltic Convention), MEDPOL (Mediterranean Convention), OSPAR (North Sea Convention), ICPDR (Commission on the Protection of the River Danube against Pollution), BSEC (Black Sea Economic Cooperation), ESPOO (Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context), and ACCOBAMS (Agreement on the Conservation of Cetaceans in the Black Sea, Mediterranean Sea and contiguous Atlantic Area). The GEF/UNDP support to the BSC and the region, in general, is indispensable.
Cooperation with the EC DG Environment, ICPDR, ACCOBAMS, EEA and UNEP has been particularly important in recent years. A number of Black Sea regional projects have been supported by the EC, in terms of regional capacity building, strengthening of the Black Sea Commission itself, and developing investment projects to address land based sources of pollution.
The Black Sea Commission is working with ICPDR toward development of a common position on the influence of the Danube River on the Black Sea. There is regular exchange of data between the two organizations. Within the framework of the Joint Technical Working Group representatives/experts of the Black and Danube regions together with officials of the Permanent Secretariats meet on a regular basis for sharing information, discussions on present environmental problems and ways to address them, management practices and outline of priorities in future cooperation.
A Conservation Plan for Black Sea Cetaceans has been drafted jointly with ACCOBAMS. The European Environmental Agency (EEA) has helped in improving reporting formats and in the development of indicators in line with European models of indicator-based reporting. The BSC works together with the UNEP on issues related to Marine Litter, Marine Protected Areas, and Land Based Sources of Pollution.
The Black Sea regional cooperation (a requirement of the Bucharest Convention) to combat ship-borne pollution in the sea is based on (i) the Emergency Protocol (1992, Protocol on the Cooperation in Combating Pollution of the Black Sea Environment by Oil and Other Harmful Substances in Emergency Situations otherwise known as the Emergency Protocol) and (ii) the Regional Contingency Plan to this Protocol (2003), (not yet signed by Russia, Ukraine and Georgia, but fully operational, as recognized by the Black Sea Commission, BSC).
The BSC collects and provides information about shipping and ship-based pollution in the region. The Black Sea Information System (BSIS) includes ESAS (Environmental Safety Aspects of Shipping) component. Annual national reporting to the Permanent Secretariat and summary report of these data to the BSC are well established, along with reporting procedures.
The BSC assists in organizing professional training, courses and workshops in cooperation with IMO, JRC, OSPRI, etc. and supports pilot projects and feasibility studies. It aims to harmonize national strategies for combating oil pollution to produce a regional approach to this problem.
An inventory of emergency and response resources in the Black Sea area has been completed, and operational procedures are now in place. All this information is reflected in the web pages of the Black Sea Commission. http://www/blacksea-commission.org.
The Regional Contingency Plan (RCP) is a document, elaborating the mechanisms for cooperation of the Contracting Parties to the Bucharest Convention in cases of major oil spills. Annexes to the RCP are:
1) Directory of competent national authorities, contact points, emergency response centres, national on-scene commanders and other relevant addresses
2) Maps showing possible sources of pollution, environmental sensitive areas, priorities for protection
3) Communication System
4) Directory of response personnel and inventory of response equipment, products and other means which each party might offer as assistance if the plan is activated
5) National Contingency Plans (or relevant parts thereof)
6) Guidelines for reporting oil spills
7) POLREP pollution reporting system
At-sea exercises foreseen by the RCP are:
a) BLACK SEA ALPHA: hypothetical or Table-top Exercise;
b) Quarterly BLACK SEA BRAVO: Alarm or Communication Exercise;
c) BLACK SEA CHARLIE: Equipment Deployment Exercise;
d) BLACK SEA DELTA: Search and Rescue and Oil spill preparedness exercise;
In order to ensure the proficient and effective application of the RCP, the Contracting Parties started capacity building regarding its implementation functioning, and practice.
The first BRAVO exercise was conducted on the 25th of January 2006, initiated by Bulgaria and carried out with the participation of all the Contracting Parties to the RCP - Bulgaria, Georgia, Romania, Russian Federation, Turkey, Ukraine and the BSC Permanent Secretariat.
The aim of a Black Sea BRAVO Exercise (Alarm Exercise) was to test the agreed procedures and lines of communication for reporting, requesting and providing assistance, as well as the response readiness of the other five countries when called to assist.
In September 2005 a workshop on 'Accidental Risk Potential of Oil Terminals, Refineries and Pipelines in the Black Sea Basin' was organized jointly by the German Environmental Agency, the Permanent Secretariat of the Black Sea Commission (BSC) and the Permanent Secretariat of the Organization for Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC). Discussions focused on experience and best practices from various international conventions. Representatives from the six littoral states of the Black Sea made presentations on their national industrial enterprises and installations at possible risk of polluting the Black Sea with oil.
The workshop aimed to raise awareness of current international experience and best practices from:
The workshop provided an overview of industrial enterprises or installations with a high level of risk of oil pollution for the Black Sea basin. This encompassed national systems of risk management and preventive measures, with a particular focus on oil pipelines, terminals and refineries.
Alongside the organizers and national delegations, the workshop was also attended by United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) and European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) representatives. Significant interest was shown in considering guidelines on Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) in a transboundary context for the Black Sea. The proposed guidelines were similar to those that emerged from a project recently completed in the Caspian region. An OSPRI representative explained their aims and explored areas where oil companies' experiences in developing safety and environmental guidelines for oil terminals may be utilized to assess facilities in the Black Sea.
Three Black Sea coastal states (Bulgaria, Romania, and Ukraine) are contracting parties to the ESPOO Convention and one country (Georgia) is a signatory. The workshop stressed on the need for more active cooperation in transboundary EIA between parties and non-parties to the ESPOO Convention, for the benefit of the Black Sea ecosystem and the Black Sea coastal states.
Ms. Elizabeth Smith, EBRD (European Bank for Reconstruction and Development), shared experiences from the Caspian Sea on environmental impact assessment in a transboundary context. She emphasized the importance of the projects with potential transboundary impacts for countries to agree on general procedures for notification, communication, language, and timing. She further emphasized that if these details are not agreed on, when an individual project is being prepared and financed, the lack of clarity on transboundary EIA, public participation, and other issues can cause extensive delays and costs to the projects, as well as lead to difficulties for project proponents.
The countries around the Caspian Sea agreed on guidelines for EIA in a transboundary context, regardless of the status of ratification of the treaties and conventions, but within the existing framework of the Caspian Environment Programme (CEP), in which all of the littoral states participate. This initiative was financed by UNEP and included the littoral states, UNEP, UNECE, EBRD, CEP and the private sector.
A round-table discussion at the end of the workshop concluded that in the Black Sea region there are still gaps in accidental risk management legislation, a lack of sufficient coordination between authorities responsible for risk management and poor coordination in preventive activities. The lack of communication between stakeholders was also raised as an issue.
The workshop recommended to the Black Sea Commission:
The overloading of oceans and seas with floating marine litter and its growing accumulation on the coasts and sea bottom is a major world-wide environmental problem (UNEP, 2005). It is generally recognized that marine litter exerts negative influences on marine and coastal ecosystems, fisheries, the health of seaside populations and development of the coastal tourist industry. The Black Sea does not appear to be an exception to the global tendency of this problem to worsen. However, this issue has not been suitably addressed at either regional or national scales in the Black Sea region so far. Actual levels of marine litter pollution have not been adequately evaluated and are not monitored by coastal riparian countries.
UNEP provided support to the BSC Secretariat to develop regional activities on marine litter within the framework of the Black Sea Strategic Action Plan (BS SAP).
A special session on Marine Litter was organized by the BSC Permanent Secretariat on 9-10 October 2006 in Istanbul, during the 15th Meeting of the BSC Pollution Monitoring and Assessment Advisory Group.
More than 20 people participated in the meeting, including scientists, governmental officers and NGO representatives, and contributed to the elaboration of a regional strategy on marine litter. The participants agreed that the principal components should include:
Improvement of national waste management policies;
Improvement of legal and administrative instruments for marine litter as a part of national waste management policies;
Development of regional and national marine litter assessment and monitoring schemes using common methodologies and assessment criteria;
Developing and implementing measures to prevent and reduce marine litter pollution;
Raising public awareness and improvement of public education;
Strengthening public/private partnership in combating marine litter pollution;
Implementation of the best available technologies in order to collect, process, recycle and dispose marine litter;
Improvement of professional skills and knowledge on the management of marine litter.
Within the framework of this project, a big clean-up campaign was initiated in Turkey which was organized and managed by TURMEPA, a Turkish NGO. The area covered included beaches along the shore, small bays and islands. The campaign attracted a great number of people from different associations and organizations, as well as local residents. Even holidaymakers joined in to help with the clean up.
The Black Sea Commission will remain highly involved in continuing activities to address the marine litter problem in the Black Sea region. A number of proposals have been developed, such as updating the regional ML database, and the involvement of Black Sea fishermen in anti-ML activities. The report of the project will be published in 2007.
A Joint Workshop was organized by the Commission on the Protection of the Black Sea Against Pollution, Convention on Biological Diversity and Pan-European Biological and Landscape Diversity Strategy Looking for Synergy in Achieving Biodiversity Millennium Goal in the Black Sea, on 15-17 September 2005 in Istanbul. A total of 26 participants/experts attended the workshop and participated in the discussions on the Strategic Action Plan for the Black Sea Biodiversity and Landscape Conservation Protocol (BSBLCP-SAP).
The main objective of the workshop was the Harmonization of the Pan-European Strategy, CBD Strategy and Black Sea Biodiversity Landscape Conservation. The BSBLCP-SAP was distributed for collection of comments after the workshop and broadly discussed during the 1st Biannual Black Sea Scientific Conference (May 2006). A list of priorities in relation to the Action Plan was outlined in the round-table discussions during the Conference (see also 1st Biannual Black Sea Scientific Conference).
The Joint Research Centre (EC-JRC) organized a workshop together with the Black Sea Commission and the Helsinki Commission during October 2005 in Istanbul. The aim of the workshop was to streamline the eutrophication assessments for both the European Marine Strategy and the EU Water Framework Directive (WFD). The GEF also supported the workshop.
The workshop included discussions on monitoring strategies / programs, the development of ecological objectives and indicators related to eutrophication and biodiversity. The workshop defined region-specific actions for future cooperation.
It is crucially important how we collect, store, analyze, present and disseminate information on the past, present and future states of the marine environment in order to assess and predict its vulnerability and to assist decision making leading to a sustainable development.
In developing monitoring programs and strategies for both Conventions (HELCOM and the BSC), the workshop emphasized that observations should be targeted to environmental concerns, providing data for indicators which support specific ecological objectives. In order to have cost-effective monitoring programs, the frequency of sampling as well as the parameters monitored need to be related to ecological objectives: most intensive monitoring should be carried out in cases where ecological objectives have not been reached, e.g. in Regions of Restricted Exchange (such as lagoons, bays).
The workshop discussed ecological objectives related to eutrophication and biodiversity in detail. For eutrophication, the ecological objectives developed by HELCOM (www.helcom.fi) can, in principle, be used as assessment tools by both regions. Though, some basic differences between the Baltic Sea and Black Sea will require fine-tuning. For example, the Black Sea is a more diverse and dynamic ecosystem than the Baltic Sea, and the driving forces, mechanisms and symptoms of eutrophication are somewhat different. Nevertheless, a set of commonly agreed indicators could be developed for both Conventions for the purposes of assessment.
An important output of the workshop was the development of a conceptual model for assessing biodiversity, using markers, such as genetic diversity, species present and community composition, etc.
It became clear from the presentations and the lively discussions that the design of monitoring programs, the assessment of eutrophication and biodiversity and the determination of reference conditions could significantly benefit from the exchange of expertise among JRC, HELCOM and the BSC. In enhancing collaboration, the BSC recognizes the advantages of arrangements between organizations that have similar goals by fostering skills and improving information exchange. (Further details are in the Public Document section of the online documents on the BSC website.)
In October 2006 UNEP and the Global Invasive Species Program (GISP) supported delivery of a modular training course on the management of marine and coastal invasive species for 23 participants from the countries of the Black Sea and Caspian Sea Regional Sea Programs. The introductory module explained the impact of globalization on the invasive marine species problem, presenting case studies related to:
Changes in ecosystem structure
Risk to human health
Compromises to sustainable development
Management actions needed to prevent or minimize introduction, to reduce the chance of establishment and how to eradicate or control existing invasive populations were outlined.
Prevention of introduction is the first line of defence against biological invasion and always the preferred option. Early detection/rapid response to prevent establishment and/or spread of alien species is a second line of defence.
Two of the modules dealt with international responses and the development of national strategic frameworks for invasive species management. The roles of communication, education and awareness raising were also highlighted. Participants learned that a wide variety of stakeholders were involved, that management should comply with international/regional obligations and that responses should include marine, freshwater & terrestrial environments.
All modules (PDF files and presentations given) of the Invasive Species Workshop are in the Public Documents section of the Commissions website.
To support the implementation of the Strategic Action Plan for the Rehabilitation and Protection of the Black Sea Against Pollution and in acknowledgement of the Danube as a major pathway of entry for pollutants to the Black Sea, the European Commission set up the DABLAS Task Force (DAnube - BLAck Sea). This provides a platform for cooperation for the protection of water and water-related ecosystems in the Danube and Black Sea Region.
Following the identification of polluting sources and development of assessment criteria, individual sources were priority-ranked as investment projects. The European Commission provided significant support to advance project preparation in the Black Sea, focusing on bankability and the identification of donors/sources or finance.
Within the framework of DABLAS, the following investment project pipelines are being developed:
1) Romania: Constanta Regional Wastewater Treatment Project
2) Bulgaria: Bourgas Regional Wastewater Treatment Project
3) Turkey: Ordu Wastewater Treatment Project
4) Turkey: Turhal Wastewater Treatment Project
5) Russia: Novorossijk Wastewater Investment Project
6) Russia: Anapa Wastewater Investment Project
7) Ukraine: Mykolaiv Water and Wastewater Investment Project
The first Black Sea Scientific Conferences provisioned in the Black Sea Strategic Action Plan and entitled Black Sea Ecosystem 2005 and Beyond took place in May 2006. As originally intended, this proved to be an effective tool for communication between the Black Sea Commission and the scientific community.
The overall objectives of the conference were to identify research priorities for the Black Sea and to provide a forum for the discussion of indicators that will allow an assessment of policy measures taken for its protection. A total of 175 abstracts were received and over 180 people attended. Scientists from 14 countries participated in the conference.
Research priorities were outlined during brainstorming sessions and round-table discussions on a Black Sea Science Plan, the purpose of which is to support policy making/monitoring. The latter resulted in enthusiastic debate.
At the end of the Conference an award ceremony was held to celebrate outstanding achievements in Black Sea Science. The following prominent Black Sea scientists received awards:
Prof. Yuri Ivanovich Sorokin - Doctor of Biological Sciences, Full Member of the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences
Prof. Mikhail Yevgenievich Vinogradov, Doctor of Biological Sciences, Full Member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Member of the Russian Academy of Ecological Sciences, Foreign Member of the Polish Academy of Sciences
Prof. Yuvenaly Petrovich Zaitsev, Doctor of Biological Sciences, Full Member of National Academy of Sciences, Ukraine
The Black Sea Commission also recognized the achievements of Dr. Erdogan Okus, Professor of Istanbul University, Turkey, who died tragically during a research/monitoring cruise in the Black Sea on 9 April 2006. Maria Panayotova from Bulgaria was awarded with the Prof. Kamen Prodanov Award for best paper of the conference by a young researcher (under 35 years of age).
31 October has been celebrated every year since all coastal countries (Bulgaria, Georgia, Romania, Russia, Turkey and Ukraine) signed the Strategic Action Plan for the Protection and Rehabilitation of the Black Sea on 31 October 1996.
The 2006 International Black Sea Action Day has been re-branded and reinvigorated to celebrate its 10th Anniversary.
The goal was to raise public awareness of the urgent need for regional, national and individual action to protect the shared Black Sea ecosystem. As such, the campaign is targeted at the 16 million people living in coastal communities of Bulgaria, Georgia, Turkey, Romania, Russia and Ukraine.
International Black Sea Action Day is a truly collaborative effort among NGOs, government agencies and coastal municipalities working together to protect the Black Sea.
A selected group of six NGO coordinators from each country played a central role in developing a new regional focus for International Black Sea Action day 2006.
A small Campaign Team was established to promote regional coordination of communications activities for the International Black Sea Action Day 2006. This team includes one representative of the NGO sector in each participating country:
Bulgaria - Emma Gileva, Executive Director, Black Sea NGO Network
Georgia - Ekaterina Khvedelidze, Black Sea Eco Academy
Romania Laura Boicenco, Executive Director, Mare Nostrum
Russia Svetlana Pankova, Krasnodar Regional Public Environment Organisation
Turkey Tanay Uyar, National Coordinator, Turkish Environmental NGO Networks
Ukraine Anastasia Tarasenko, Youth Ecological Centre
The key partners of the Commission on the Protection of the Black Sea Against Pollution for the International Black Sea Action Day 2006 were:
The Black Sea Ecosystem Recovery Project
The Black Sea NGO Network & other NGO partners
In July 2006 over 400 people from coastal towns and communities all around the Black Sea were surveyed about their perceptions of the state of the Black Sea, their responsibilities for its current state and their willingness to pay for improving its current status.
The results of the survey showed a very high willingness in the public to protect the Black Sea. More than 80% of all respondents said they would pay extra money to protect the Black Sea environment. However the survey found that there was very low awareness of nutrient pollution from agriculture and untreated wastewater as the main regional issue facing the Black Sea environment.
For International Black Sea Action Day 2006 each NGO Coordinator worked with partners from national environment ministries and coastal municipalities to develop a national plan of activities to:
Raise media awareness of International Black Sea Action Day
Communicate the need for greater regional cooperation
Encourage participation by key national decision-makers
Provide media opportunities for Commissioners
Distribute promotional materials
The audience overwhelmingly responded to a positive message of hope and individual responsibility. Extensive pre-testing was used to develop the main visual theme and use of the slogan The Future of the Black Sea is in Our Hands.
The website name of www.oneblacksea.org was also designed to reinforce the shared nature of this special and finite resource. The web address was applied to all promotional materials: posters, postcards, T-shirts, banners, and in-country promotional materials.
A cartoon fish also provided a unifying visual theme that was included on all promotional materials.
The new website was developed to improve communication with the NGO community and provide greater consistency in communicating the key messages to the wider public. The website was designed to show members of the general public what they can do to protect the Black Sea environment and it includes:
Profiles of individual heroes working to protect the Black Sea environment
Media releases and clippings
Online audience survey
Publication of the Educational Study Pack in English
The Black Sea Pledge
An award ceremony for the "Black Sea Medal for Services to Protect the Black Sea Environment".
The shortlist of 5 national candidates was sent to each Commissioner for approval before being sent to the final selection panel (The Chair of the Commission, the Executive Director of the Commission, and the Executive Director of the Black Sea NGO Network).
The Medals have been awarded by the Black Sea Commission on the Protection of the Black Sea Against Pollution and the Black Sea Ecosystem Recovery Project, which is managed by the UNDP and funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF). All recipients received their Black Sea Medals at a special award ceremony held in Istanbul on 31 October - International Black Sea Action Day 2006.
The winners include a range of people from different sectors including the media, NGOs, science and government:
Bulgaria, Lyubomir Stoyanov, A Regional Champion for Environmental Safety in the Black Sea
Georgia, Merab Sharabidze, A Champion for Regional Cooperation
Romania, Cristian Lascu, Editor of National Geographic Romania & Environmental Educator
Russian Federation, Dr. Leonid Yarmak, A Regional Champion for Integrated Coastal Zone Management
Turkey, Gl Gktepe, Scientist and NGO Champion
Ukraine, Dr. Yaroslav Movchan, A Driving Force Behind the Strategic Action Plan for the Protection and Rehabilitation of the Black Sea
More than 8000 people were directly involved in nearly 20 separate events and media coverage reached an estimated audience of more than 600,000 people. Events were directly supported by the Bulgarian Black Sea Commissioner, Ms Lyubka Kachakova, and eight mayors from coastal municipalities.
More than 5000 people directly participated in 12 events and more than 80 separate media items reached an estimated audience of more than 100,000 people. Key events were supported directly by the Minister of Environment and Sustainable Development, Mrs. Sulfina Barbu, the State Secretary of the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development, Mrs. Ana Lucia Varga, and municipal leaders from coastal authorities.
In Ukraine more 1800 people directly participated in 15 successful activities and the mass media coverage reached an estimated audience of 300,000 people. Key activities were directly supported by the National Black Sea Commissioner, Dr. Yaroslav Movchan and representatives of Vodocanals from coastal regions.
In Georgia about 6000 people were directly involved in about 14 events and the media coverage included more than 35 items reaching an estimated audience of more than 300,000 people. The coverage included programs on three TV channels broadcasting nationwide and one of the regional stations in Adjarian. The Minister and Deputy Ministers of Environment of Georgia visited the Adjarian coastal region on 31 October.
In Russia more than 11,000 people directly participated in more than 40 Black Sea Day events and there were more than 40 media items including one news report on national TV reaching an estimated audience of 145 million people. Key decision-makers directly involved in activities included the Black Sea Commissioner Ms. Natalya Tretyakova and the four mayors of coastal municipalities.
In Turkey more than 5000 people were directly involved in more than 20 events and the media coverage included more than 40 items reaching an estimated audience of 2 million people.
Key events were supported directly by Environment and Forestry Minister Mr. Osman Pepe and municipal leaders from coastal authorities.
Images published under the Creative Commons license or the GNU Free documentation license: from top clockwise: top left: View on Sotsji from Black Sea, by Ojj, Wikipedia, top-right: Sunset on the Laspi beach on the Crimean peninsula (Ukraine), Podvalov, bottom-left: Black Sea beach in Bulgaria, Evgeni Dinev, bottom-right Paraplaner, Burgas bg.wikipedia