site.btaUPDATED Experts, Officials Discuss Climate Change Impact on Black Sea
Scientists and representatives of international organizations discussed the climate change impact on the Black Sea and the environment in its basin during a forum organized by the Ministry of Environment and Water at the Bulgarian pavilion of COP28 here on Saturday.
The discussion was moderated by Environment and Water Minister Julian Popov and involved Tourism Minister Zaritsa Dinkova, EU Mission Restore Our Ocean and Waters Board member and former Environment Minister Ivelina Vasileva, Black Sea Commission monitoring and assessment officer Irina Makarenko, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences (BAS) President Julian Revalski, Miroslav Tsvetkov of the Nikola Vaptsarov Naval Academy in Varna, and BAS Institute of Oceanology Director Nikolay Valchev, who joined online.
Popov said that while the Black Sea has a rich archaeological history, 90% of it is dead. He added that understanding the Black Sea is a major scientific challenges.
Organizers from the Environment Ministry commented that specific features of the Black Sea make it especially vulnerable to environmental disturbances. Eutrophication, pollution and uncontrolled fishing have reduced the Sea's overall biological resources and have diminished species diversity, bringing its ecosystems to the brink of destruction. National efforts and regional-international cooperation within the framework of the Convention on the Protection of the Black Sea against Pollution, as expressed in the concerted actions of the Strategic Action Plan for the Restoration and Conservation of the Black Sea, have led to the first signs of recovery of the Sea, the organizers said.
Vasileva said that the Black Sea is exposed to climate change, resulting in rising sea levels, coast erosion, chemical pollution, microplastics, and noise. She listed various instruments to save the Black Sea: the Bulgarian legislative framework, the EU Mission Restore Our Ocean and Waters, the EU Horizon Europe Programme and more, which together give access to EUR 500 million for improvement of the state of Europe's seas and waters.
Makarenko said that while climate change was not a topic for the Black Sea Commission in the 1990s, Romania, which currently holds the rotating chairmanship of the Commission, is advancing work on assessing the state of the Black Sea under climate influence. "Climate change has been underestimated in the Black Sea Commission, and we are doing our best to change this," she said.
The monitoring and assessment officer reported that invasive species from the Mediterranean are entering the Black Sea because of warming waters. She recalled the large influx of fresh water into the Black Sea after the wall of the Nova Kakhovka Dam in Ukraine was destroyed in June and spoke about its impact on the marine ecosystem.
Revalski presented the work of the BAS Institute of Oceanology and the Institute of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Research. They are committed to monitoring the Black Sea and the conservation of marine ecosystems in the NATURA 2000 ecological network under EU directives. Revalski credited Popov for being a proponent of getting scientific advice when important policy decisions need to be made.
Valchev presented the results of recent research by his Institute of Oceanology into whether global warming is likely to lead to a shrinkage of the cold water layer near the sea surface, which is vital for sustaining ecosystems. The measurements show a 0.6 C rise in surface water temperatures over a decade. The change in water temperature affects plankton, fish migration and water acidity. Migration pathways are changing, as they are adapting to climate change, Valchev said.
Tsvetkov spoke about the second voyage to the Antarctic of the Bulgarian naval research vessel Sv. Sv. Kiril i Metodii'. He presented projects in which Naval Academy specialists monitor pollution, oil spills and underwater noise levels.
Dinkova said that climate change adaptation ensures greater competitiveness of the tourism industry. "We must all channel our efforts in this direction because Bulgaria has all prerequisites to turn into an attractive tourist destination," she emphasized.
Bulgaria has already made significant progress in this respect, Dinkova added. In 2023, twenty-one Bulgarian beaches and one marina were awarded a Blue Flag, which is is one of the world's most recognized voluntary awards for beaches, marinas, and sustainable tourism boats. Besides this, eleven Bulgarian hotels have received a Green Key certificate, the leading standard for excellence in environmental responsibility and sustainable operation in the tourism industry. She cited the example of Albena, a leading Bulgarian seaside resort which has adopted the best practices for waste management, local foods and renewable energy.
Dinkova argued that the Black Sea waters have never been cleaner but admitted that a lot remains to be done against plastic contamination, about which both holidaymakers and tourism industry managers and employees need to be educated.
The Tourism Minister sees "vast opportunities" for the interactive presentation of the Black Sea underwater cultural heritage and offering a varied tourism product and sustainable use of the cultural heritage.
"The future of tourism is greener, more innovative, more sustainable and more inclusive. We prioritize basically developing and promoting Bulgaria as a preferred destination for sustainable year-round tourism: this cannot be achieved without protecting our Black Sea coast. More importantly, this cannot be achieved without developing in synchronization with and respecting our natural environment," Dinkova went on to say.