Black Sea

The unique ecosystem of the North-Western Shelf of the Black Sea is burdened by excessive loads of nutrients and hazardous substances from the coastal countries and the rivers that enter into it. The most important of these rivers is the Danube, followed by the Dnjestr and the Dnjepr.

Pollution inputs and other factors have radically changed Black Sea ecosystems beginning around 1960. These changes are seriously threatening biodiversity and our use of the sea for fishing and recreation.

In addition to nutrient pollution, other pressures on the Black Sea ecosystems include organic pesticides, heavy metals, incidental and operational spills from oil vessels and ports, over-fishing and invasions of exotic species.

The Black Sea is the world largest body of water containing hydrogen sulfide. This is due to the inflow of salty Mediterranean seawater into its depths, and an inflow of river water into the shallows. The result is a stratified structure of varying waters and flows, which cannot be mixed by winds or other above-surface conditions. This has led to oxygen depletion in layers below 80 to 150 m and to the building of hydrogen sulfide.

What is the future of the Black Sea?

Nitrogen inputs into the Black Sea have been reduced recently, but are still higher than those observed during the 1960s. In contrast, the current phosphate inputs appear to be roughly the same as in the 1960s.

According to information from the Black Sea Commission, efforts to reduce discharges from 49 high priority pollution sources - such as insufficiently treated wastewater and airborne emissions - are beginning to bear fruit. This is evidenced by fewer and less intense algal blooms that are now being recorded in the sea, while total comparable fish catches have increased.

Pollution from municipalities and industry is clearly declining due to the following factors:

  • economic recession in the lower Danubian and former-Soviet countries
  • successful measures taken to reduce nutrient discharges in the upper Danube countries, including dramatic reductions in the use of fertilizers and considerable improvements in the treatment of waste water
  • the implementation of a ban on polyphosphate detergents in some countries

What the ICPDR is doing

The ICPDR has joined forces with the Black Sea Commission to remedy the environmental degradation of the Black Sea through the Danube by establishing a Joint Technical Working Group. This body is currently drafting guidelines for achieving good environmental status in the coastal waters of the Black Sea, in line with EU legislation. Co-operation between the two commissions started in 1997 on a preliminary basis, and was reinforced by a Memorandum of Understanding signed in November 2001 at a ministerial meeting in Brussels.

The ICPDR is also a member of the DABLAS Task Force, which was set up in November 2001 as a platform for co-operation between international financial institutions (IFIs), donors and beneficiaries with regard to the protection of water and water-related ecosystems along the Danube and in the Black Sea.

The task force includes representatives from the countries in the region, the ICPDR, the Black Sea Commission, IFIs, the EC, interested EU Member States, and other bilateral donors, as well as other regional and international organisations.


  • application/pdf MoU between ICPBS and ICPDR (15.54 KB)
    Memorandum of Understanding between the International Commission for the Protection of the Black Sea (ICPBS) and the International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River (ICPDR) on common strategic goals Document No.: IC/027 Version: FINAL



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