Place-Based Protections in an Era of Climate Change
New Horizons in Environmental and Energy Law series
Chapter 2: Non-Climate Threats to Marine Ecosystems and Biodiversity
The Black Sea, located in Europe south of Russia, once supported a healthy and complex marine ecosystem made up of pike, sturgeon, sea grass nurseries, kelp forests, and Mediterranean monk seals. However, development in other parts of Europe and exploitation of the Black Sea itself subjected this ecosystem to a variety of stressors—overfishing, oil spills, industrial discharges, nutrient pollution from the many rivers that feed into the sea, wetlands destruction, and introduction of alien species. According to the International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River, these stressors “have radically changed Black Sea ecosystems beginning around 1960 [sic], and seriously threatening [sic] biodiversity and our use of the sea for fishing and recreation.”1 As a result, the Black Sea has become a “jellyfish sea.” In the 1980s, discharges of vessel ballast water introduced an invasive jellyfish, Mnemiopsis leidyi. It rapidly took over the already-stressed sea, displacing the native ecosystem and commercially important species of fish. Indeed, according to marine biologists at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, the anchovy catch in the Black Sea plummeted by 80 percent in less than a decade, “from 500,000 tons in the early 1980s to 100,000 tons in 1989. Although the anchovy harvest has since rebounded to about 300,000 tons, catches of a second food fish, the Azov Sea kilka, have fallen to zero.”2 Hypoxia—the severe reduction of dissolved oxygen in the water—has also taken hold, making recovery increasingly unlikely as the Black Sea’s anoxic layer...
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