The Sea of Azov and the Black Sea are the most distant ones from the ocean, and the territory of their catchment basin largely exceeds their own areas. This has conditioned their extreme sensitivity to the effects of human activity. What is more, during the last decades there took place an explosive development of the eutrophication processes, pollution of the sea shelf by toxic agents, sea shore abrasion, loss of biological diversity and fish resources, together with a considerable waste of recreational resources.
The Azov – Black Sea Basin comprises 98% of Ukraine. The catchment basin of the Sea of Azov and Black Sea covers a territory of 2.4 million km3. The Ukrainian territory share in the total area of the Azov – Black Sea catchment basin is 23%, which includes catchment basins of the Danube, Dnieper, Dnister, Southern Bug and Siverskyi Donets rivers (Don River basin), and smaller rivers of the northern Pryazovija, Crimea Peninsula and north-western Prytchernomorija.
The coast of the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov constitutes a considerable part of the southern borders of Ukraine. It includes five administrative units (oblasts) (Donetska, Zaporizhska, Khersonska, Mykolaivska and Odesa oblasts), together with the Autonomous Republic of the Crimea. The total length of the coastline is more than 3,000 km.
The area of the internal waters of the Sea of Azov – Black Sea amounts to 10,881 km3, the area of the territorial waters of Ukraine accounts for 29,454 km3 , and the sea shelf area to the isobar of 200 m is 55 750 km3, which is 57% of the total area of the Black Sea shelf. The total length of the Ukrainian coastline within the limits of the Sea of Azov and Black Sea is nearly 3,000 km.
The Ukrainian territory comprises 14 sea firths and estuaries with a total area of 1,952 km3, 8 gulfs and bays with a total area of 1,770 km3 and nearly 20 sea-coast wetlands with a total area amounting to 635,000 hectares.
Intensive economic development and exhaustive nature management has led to considerable ecological pressure on the ecological systems of the Black Sea and Sea of Azov.
A pollution level of the above seas exceeding the assimilating abilities of the seas’ ecological systems, introduction of alien biological species, utilization of the natural sea resources in a volume exceeding their potential, implementation of ecologically hazardous technologies of sea resource development, transportation and reloading of sea cargoes, etc., have during the last thirty years brought about great changes in the natural conditions of the seas. Microbiological pollution of the coastal waters by the waste of municipal enterprises very often makes this water unfit for recreational use. Wave abrasion aggravates the dangerous geological processes along the entire seashore.
One of the types of negative effects upon the sea environment is the dredging and hydro-mechanical works, which are conducted in the territorial waters and on the Black Sea shelf.
One other important problem of the sea coast zone is seashore erosion. According to estimates, about 2,600 km of the coastline has experienced the effects of erosion and washing-away of soil. Around 100 hectares of land are washed away annually, which prevents its useful utilization. This causes a shrinkage of territory available for town planning and tourism development, and in some cases negatively affects the coastline’s ecological system. The measures to protect the seashore are fragmented and do not create a joint protection system of the entire Ukrainian coastline. Following the adoption of several decrees of the government, about 150 km of the shore have been reinforced.
The most sensitive area for the anthropogenic pressure is the coastal zone of the Black Sea and Sea of Azov, especially the port areas and river estuaries along with the large metropolitan areas located close to the sea. A considerable contribution to the pollution of the coastal zone of the Black Sea is made by the industrial enterprises situated on the coast, which discharge the sewage into the seas.
Pollutants discharge into the Black Sea, thousand tons per year
Volumes of waste water discharge into the Black Sea
Considerable amounts of polluting substances enter the sea from large metropolitan areas located by the sea and their municipal services. These areas are Odesa, Sevastopol, Feodosia and others. In general, during 1998 the following amounts of sewage were discharged into the sea within the territory of Ukraine:
Without purification – 5.9 million m3; With insufficient purification – 34.5 million m3; Purified to meet requirements of applicable standards – 224.6 million m3.
At the same time the sea absorbed 5,100 tons of suspended matters and 5,100 tons of organic substances.
Anthropogenic-technogenic pressure on the sea environment is illustrated by Figures 3 and 4, which depict the volumes of the discharge and content of the major polluting matters entering the Black Sea with sewage within the boundaries of Ukraine (the data are provided for the years of 1995-1998). According to the above data, the last years show a tendency towards a reduction of polluting matters discharged into the sea as a result of an improvement of sewage purification quality and decrease in the sewage volume itself.
The bulk of the polluting matters is discharged into the sea from the operations of installations of municipal services in the big metropolitan areas on the sea shore, namely Odesa, Sevastopol, Feodosia and others.
It must be mentioned that the purification facilities generally keep the water pollution to the existing standards. A commendable example is the fact that when Odesa introduced into operation a new biological purification station “Pivdennay”, the discharge of insufficiently purified sewage into the sea dropped by 55 million m3. At the same time, a large number of purification facilities within the zone of monitoring do not meet the current requirements for water purification due to ineffective functioning. These are the Odesa thermal power plant, “Zoloti Piski” guest house, Illichevskyi commercial seaport and others.
Great harm to the sea environment is inflicted by the discharge of unpurified sewage in the town of Balaklava, which releases into the sea about 10,000 m3 daily. In this area there are no immediate plans to reduce the volume of the sewage discharge or put into service new purifying facilities, since the capital construction plans for the Black Sea Fleet development envisage closure of all the water pollution sources only after 2005.
Concurrently, the municipality of Sevastopol has no plan to construct biological purification stations for water purification. The sewage system does not meet the current norms, which is the reason for frequent failures leading to additional large discharges of polluted water into the recreation areas of the Black Sea beaches.
One of the important factors increasing the pollution of the Black Sea, is the discharge of ballast water containing crude oil, suspended matters and iron.
Biological resources. The ichthyofauna of the Black Sea and Sea of Azov is constituted by elements of different origin and amounts to nearly 160 species of fish. Like the fauna of invertebrates, the Black Sea ichthyofauna comprises sea fish of Mediterranean origin (about 60%). In addition, there are freshwater fish (more than 20%) and Ponto-Caspian relicts (about 16% of species).
In consequence of various factors, including extensive fishing, the ichthyofauna make-up has undergone considerable changes and, consequently, so has the diversity of fish extracted. Analysis of the dynamics of extracted fish and other sea products during the last five years shows a tendency towards a decline of the volume of extracted sea products. The maximum yield was experienced in 1995 – 35,033 tons, in 1998 – 34,261 tons, and the average for the five-year period was 31,221 tons, which constitutes 89% of the peak yield. The yields for sturgeon, mackerel, pelamyd, alevin, miller’s thumb and grey mullet decreased considerably. Sprat and Black Sea anchovy now dominate the industrial catch, and it is nearly impossible to catch such species as mackerel, pelamyd, greenfish and horse-mackerel.
Four species of sturgeon have been entered into the Red Book of Ukraine, namely, beluga, acantha, sterlet and Atlantic sturgeon (total of 6 species in the Black Sea); the number of Black Sea and Danube alevins is dangerously low. Industrial fishing is prohibited and only limited fishing for research purposes is allowed of the Black Sea grey millet (all five species), goat-fish, Russian sturgeon, stellate sturgeon, brill and horse-mackerel.
With a gradual decrease in the fishing volume of valuable fish species, the volume of fishing of less valuable species increases, and such fish thus constitute the bulk of the industrial fish catch.
Due to the catastrophic situation with the red philophora water plant, its harvesting is prohibited, and extensive and comprehensive research has been launched in the Black Sea to determine the most appropriate methods of its extraction.
A similar situation has developed with the mollusc, especially the edible mussel. Frequent summer underfeeding and hazardous fishing equipment led to a considerable drop in the number of the colonies of edible mussels in the north-western part of the sea at the end of 1980s.
In general, the state of the Black Sea biological resources does not show a tendency towards an improvement. The poor economic situation in the country prevents not only an improvement, but also maintenance on a necessary level of scientific research activities, which could monitor and forecast the development of the state of the biological resources, and make possible the development of new approaches in artificial sea-farming of various species of fish in the sea industry.
Development of protected territories. Natural conservation objects located within the boundaries of the water areas and sea coast has had a positive influence on the state of the sea environment. The sea coastal zone comprises 7 natural conservation areas, 1 national park, 35 natural refugiums, 32 natural-historical parks and 102 natural monuments. Their total area accounts for 2,800 km2 or about 15% of the total coastal zone of the country (the natural parks of Ukraine occupy only 3.4% of its territory). Out of 19 wetland areas of the Azov-Black Sea region, 14 are natural parks of different levels of conservation. Among them are the Danube and Black Sea biosphere reserves.
The further development of the natural parks on the seashore of Ukraine includes allocation of new parks in the wetlands areas, sea spits, islands and mountainous areas. The most promising area is the coastline of the Sea of Azov, where a national park is planned.
In order to protect the natural landscape of the seashore during the next ten years,
plans exist for a doubling of the total area of protected territories on the coastline
through the following measures: