A workshop on the assessment of results of Black Sea surveys carried out in Georgia, Russian Federation and Ukraine in 2016, within the framework of the EU/UNDP project “Improving Environmental Monitoring in the Black Sea” (EMBLAS II) and the project Steering Committee meeting were held in Tbilisi, Georgia on 14-16 February. First results on the assessment of the environmental status of the Black Sea according to the requirements of the EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive were presented.

The surveys consisted of the National Pilot Monitoring Surveys conducted in the territorial waters of participating countries and Joint Open Sea Surveys in the deep water parts of the Black Sea. Surveys’ ships accommodated teams of highly qualified specialists from the three project countries being reinforced by experts from five EU Member States assisting at implementation of novel monitoring methodologies. Selected samples were analysed in specialised laboratory of the European Commission DG Joint Research Centre in Ispra, Italy.

During the surveys, a large number of environmental parameters was measured in all compartments of the marine environment, including unique samples taken at the depths of more than 2 km. The results of special metagenomics analysis showed that there is a life in this hostile ‘dead zone’ of the Black Sea with a positive news that the organic pollutants deposited at the bottom of the sea are degraded by bacteria and thus do not accumulate as a future ‘chemical time bomb’. A holistic analysis of all relevant biological parameters (water, fauna and flora) took place using sampling and analysis methodologies harmonised among the countries. The results allowed, i.a., for determination of invasive species, which are becoming an increasingly disturbing factor for maintaining the balance in marine biodiversity. Next to the detailed study on the occurrence of the EU priority substances in water, sediment and biota (fish and mussels) samples a first attempt has been made to identify the Black Sea Specific Pollutants.  Samples were screened for presence of more than 2000 chemicals by the state-of-the-art methodologies; pollution patterns were established for a wide range of industrial chemicals, pharmaceuticals, personal care products, flame retardants etc. across the Black Sea and major ‘hot spots’ were identified. Exceedances of toxic threshold values by some of these substances were recorded making them candidates for future monitoring by all Black Sea countries. Despite the overall pollution by the priority substances was not excessive, exceedances of threshold values by mercury and a few organic contaminants in Georgia and Ukraine are a matter of concern. The usefulness of satellite monitoring of parameters of eutrophication compared to conventional methods had been tested. The surveys in Ukraine included study on hypoxia, leading to obtaining a very much needed new data on the oxygen layers in the Black Sea. Monitoring of marine litter showed rather surprisingly high number of litter items in the open sea regions compared to other European seas. The surveys included a systematic collection of data on marine mammals using a common methodology. As a result of the above efforts draft maps of environmental status of the Black Sea according to the EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive were produced. All results are being collected in the Black Sea Water Quality Database to be transparently shared within the Black Sea region and Europe-wide.

The results are included in the scientific report, which is being currently finalized. They will be taken into account at drafting relevant national Marine Strategies and will become a basis for evidence-based policy making on measures to improve the status of the Black Sea.

In April, a summary of the scientific report for the public is planned to be released followed by the press-conferences in project countries.

Some examples of the issues discussed:1-2

3-4 4

Thanks for all the project partners and international organizations contributing for this report!