The impact of climate change on the specifics of the Black Sea and environmental protection in its basin was discussed by scientists and representatives of international organizations at a discussion organized by the Ministry of Environment and Water (MoEW) in the Bulgarian pavilion of COP28 in Dubai.
The Minister of Environment and Water, Yulian Popov, moderated the round table, which brought together Zaritsa Dinkova, Minister of Tourism, Ivelina Vasileva, former Minister of the Environment, representative of the EU mission "Restoring our Oceans and Waters", Irina Makarenko, employee of monitoring and assessment of pollution in the Permanent Secretariat of the Black Sea Commission, Academician Julian Revalski, President of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences (BAS), Prof. Miroslav Tsvetkov from the Higher Naval School in Varna, and Associate Professor Nikolay Valchev, Director of the Institute in Oceanology at the BAS, who enrolled online.
The Black Sea is one of the seas that has preserved a rich archaeological history, but 90 percent of it is dead, said Minister Julian Popov. He pointed out that one of the biggest scientific challenges is to understand the Black Sea.
Due to natural factors, the species diversity of the Black Sea fauna is approximately three times less compared to that of the Mediterranean Sea. The specific features of the Black Sea make it very vulnerable to environmental and ecosystem disturbances. Eutrophication, pollution and irresponsible fishing have led to an overall reduction of biological resources, species and landscape diversity, as well as aesthetic and recreational value of the Black Sea, thus bringing its ecosystems to the brink of collapse. National efforts and regional-international cooperation within the framework of the Convention for the Protection of the Black Sea from Pollution, expressed in the concerted actions of the Strategic Action Plan for the Restoration and Protection of the Black Sea, have led to the first signs of restoration of the Black Sea, the organizers of the event indicated from the Ministry of Education and Culture, quoted by BTA.
The Black Sea is a European sea, emphasized Ivelina Vasileva. It is rich in biodiversity, historical and cultural heritage, ten rivers flow into it. But it is also exposed to climate change, as a result of which the sea level rises, there is erosion, pollution from chemical substances, microplastics, noise. She pointed out the possibilities of using various international instruments to save the Black Sea - the Bulgarian legislative framework, the European mission "To restore our seas and waters", associations at the national and regional level, the EU program "Horizon Europe", European investment instruments that together they give access to 500 million euros to improve the state of the seas and waters in Europe. She called for the promotion of the EU's mission, which can be joined by institutions, businesses, non-governmental organizations, even citizens united by the goal of improving the state of the sea.
Irina Makarenko from the Black Sea Commission presented the activities of the structure created in 1994 to protect the environment of the Black Sea from marine operations, pollution, to protect biodiversity. Climate change was not an issue for the Black Sea Commission in the 1990s, she said. Currently, Romania is the rotating chairman of the commission and the work on the assessment of the state of the Black Sea under the influence of climate is progressing. Climate change is underestimated in the Black Sea Commission and we are doing our best to change that, she concluded.
Makarenko presented the projects of the commission and the UN for the study of the Black Sea. She said invasive species from the Mediterranean are entering it due to warming waters and recalled the large influx of fresh water into the Black Sea after the explosion of the Novaya Kakhovka dam in Ukraine, which also affected the sea's ecosystem.
The Black Sea will be one of the focuses of the initiative for the green recovery of Ukraine, among the initiators of which is Bulgaria, Minister Popov said during the meeting.
Academician Julian Revalski presented the activities of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences and, in particular, the work of two of the total 42 institutes on the study of the Black Sea. The Institute of Oceanology and the Institute of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Research are studying the impact of climate change on the state of the sea. They are committed to carrying out observations on the monitoring of the Black Sea and the conservation of marine ecosystems in NATURA according to European directives. Academician Revalski congratulated Minister Yulian Popov for being a supporter of receiving scientific advice when important political decisions have to be made and for actively encouraging his colleagues in the Council of Ministers to seek the opinion of scientists in their work as well.
Prof. Nikolay Valchev presented results from recent research by the Institute of Oceanology on whether global warming could cause the cold layer of water near the surface, which is vital for sustaining marine ecosystems, to shrink. The measurements show a rise of 0.6 degrees in surface water temperature per decade. The thickness of the cold water layer has been in place for the same period, although there has been an improving trend recently, he said. The change in water temperature affects plankton, fish migration, water acidity. We have already established that migration routes are changing and that they are adapting to climate changes, added Prof. Valchev.
Prof. Miroslav Tsvetkov from the Higher Naval School (VVMU) in Varna presented the activities of the Bulgarian Naval Academy and emphasized that the vessel NIK421 is on its second voyage to Antarctica. He presented the developments and projects of the specialists from VVMU for pollution monitoring, oil spills, underwater research on noise levels. Prof. Tsvetkov pointed out that in addition to the national monitoring carried out by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, they followed the condition of the Black Sea after the incident in Nova Kakhovka, Ukraine.
Minister of Tourism Zaritsa Dinkova highlighted the good partnership with Minister Julian Popov since COP27. She emphasized her opinion that tourism is an eco-intensive activity and stated that Bulgaria has a huge potential to establish itself as a sustainable tourist destination. Minister Dinkova said that the rulers need the scientific assessment of the purity of the waters and added that the waters of the Black Sea have never been so clean. We have over 20 blue flag beaches, but there is a lot to be done against plastic pollution, we need to educate both tourists and people in the industry, she said.
Minister Dinkova indicated that the Ministry of Tourism will work with the municipalities on 21 projects, in which there will be a sustainable indicator that will be leading. Business is more advanced than the state in sustainable development, she said, giving the example of the Albena resort, which has closed the loop and has already renovated most of its buildings.