G.Info:State of the Environment Georgia - The Black Sea
The Black Sea in Crisis
In period of only three decades, the Black Sea has suffered the catastrophic degradation of a major part of its natural resources. Increased loads of nutrients from rivers caused an overproduction of tiny phytoplankton which in turn blocked the light reaching the sea grasses and algae, essential components of the sensitive ecosystem of the north-western shelf. The entire ecosystem began to collapse. This problem, coupled with pollution and irrational exploitation of fish stocks, started a sharp decline in fisheries resources. To make matters worse, in the mid 1980s, a jellyfish-like species (Mnemiopsis leidyi), which was accidentally introduced to the Black Sea from the eastern seaboard of America in the ballast water of a ship, invaded the Black Sea. Its diet included fish larvae and the tiny animals small fish feed upon. It quickly reached a total mass of 900 million tons (ten times the annual fish harvest from the entire world!). Though declining, Mnemiopsis continues to plague to Black Sea but this is not the only problem. Poor planning has destroyed much of the aesthetic resources of the coastlines. Uncontrolled sewage pollution has led to frequent beach closures and considerable losses in the tourist industry. In some places solid waste is being dumped directly in the sea or on valuable wetlands. Tanker accidents and operational discharges have often caused oil pollution. All of this came at a time when five of the Black Sea countries were facing an economic and social transition and were unable to take the necessary urgent remedial actions.
It does not require much insight to appreciate that the exploitation of the Black Sea's resources in the past few decades has been unsustainable. The environment of the Black Sea has deteriorated dramatically in terms of its biodiversity, habitats, fisheries resources, aesthetic and recreational value and water quality. The Black Sea has many "uses", ranging from fishing, tourism and mineral extraction on one hand, to its use as a cheap transport route and as a convenient place to dump solid and liquid waste on the other. Many of these uses have an additional economic cost through their impact on the environment. The present environmental crisis has been precipitated largely by ignoring these hidden costs. Like so many environmental issues, by paying little or no attention to these "costs", they have been conveniently transferred from one generation to the next.