Brussels, 21 May 2003
Preserving and protecting the Mediterranean and Black Seas might be a high priority for policy-makers and scientists, but it is imperative for Europe's citizens living around these fragile resources.
This is the underlying message of the forthcoming 'International Conference on the Sustainable Development of the Mediterranean and Black Sea Environment' (IASON) which runs from 28-30 May.
The event aims to reinforce the scientific and technological collaboration between the European Union and countries in the eastern Mediterranean and Black Sea regions. How to develop sustainable strategies for managing and preserving fragile marine ecosystems will be hotly debated by scientists and policy-makers attending the conference in Thessaloniki, Greece.
Several sessions will be devoted to sustainability, marine environmental problems, as well as a range of research and technology issues – informed by the EU's research objectives and its current Framework Programme for research (FP6). Themes to be covered include: climate change and related processes; sustainable land use and coastal management; biodiversity changes; biotechnology towards environmental sustainability; impact of anthropogenic activities; sustainable fisheries and aquaculture; thresholds of environmental sustainability; and environmental economy.
More research needed
Urbanisation, disposal of industrial and domestic waste, intensive agriculture and fishing, soil degradation and desertification are just a few of the many pressures exerted on the Mediterranean environment. The Black Sea is not fairing any better. Rivers feeding into the Black Sea are increasingly polluted as the 17 countries in the region become more industrialised.
Heavy flooding in central Europe last year caused significant damage to the river Danube and, in turn, to the coastal regions of the Black Sea. Ecological deterioration in this region is also a growing concern of scientists, governments and the public at large. Between 1973 and 1990, 60 million tonnes of bottom-living animals were found dead, including 5 000 tonnes of fish. The sewage systems of over 10 million people drain into the Black Sea and its environs. Over 100 000 tonnes of oil are transported via the Black Sea every year.
According to a report on the marine environment in the Mediterranean Sea and its coastal zone, a dearth of comparable and reliable data was listed as one of the major concerns by its authors. The report, prepared by the European Environment Agency and the UN Environment Programme – in co-operation with the European Tropical Centre and Mediterranean Action Plan – called for more multidisciplinary research to determine with more certainty how Europe's marine ecosystems is holding up.