Black Sea

By : Neha Dhyani

Updated : Mar 29, 2022, 5:09

Lying between Asia and Europe, the Black Sea is an inland sea. This marginal sea remains connected to the Atlantic Ocean through the Aegean Sea, the Mediterranean Sea, and several straits. The Black Sea shares its coastline with six countries: Russia, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Turkey, Georgia, and Romania. Its drainage basin covers portions of 24 countries in Europe.

This waterbody serves as a year-round strategic trade and transportation channel in the region. It plays an integral role in connecting the countries in East Europe with global trade markets. The Black Sea is significant from political aspects as well. Let's take a look at some essential facts and features of the Black Sea:

Important Facts and Features of the Black Sea

  • The Black Sea has a surface area of 436,400 km2 and a maximum depth of 2,212 m.
  • The coastline of the Black Sea is 8000 km long.
  • This waterbody is the meeting point of several rivers, such as the Southern Bug, Danube, Dniester, Don, and Rioni.
  • The Black Sea is the largest water body globally, having a meromictic basin. This means its water layers do not intermix.
  • More than 90% of the water at the deep-sea level in the Black Sea is anoxic. They don't support any life except adapted bacteria.
  • The Black Sea is dotted with about 65 seaports that place it among the world's busiest trade routes.
  • Among the major ports of the Black Sea are Port Constanta in Romania, Port Odesa in Ukraine, Port Novorossiysk in Russia, Port Varna in Bulgaria, and Port Batumi in Georgia.
  • The key economic activities include fishing, tourism, and exploring hydrocarbons for oil and natural gas.
  • Even though enveloped by land, this waterbody is not considered a lake as it remains connected to the Mediterranean Sea via the Bosporus and Dardanelles Straits.
  • Around 180 fish species exist in the Black Sea, one-fifth of which contribute to the commercial fishing industry in the region.
  • Since many large rivers flow into the Black Sea, the salinity level in its surface water is considerably reduced. Compared to the 35% salinity of the oceans, the Black Sea has only 17% salinity.
  • About 5600 species inhabit the Black Sea, which is way less than the 10,000 known species existing in the Mediterranean Sea.
  • As per the 1936 Montreux Convention, civilian ships can get free passage between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean Sea.
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Human and Environmental Factors Impacting the Black Sea

Traditionally, the Black Sea had been a stable ecosystem. But human activities and environmental changes in the last few decades have caused severe degradation of its ecosystem. Factors like marine traffic, oil spills, pollution, unchecked industrial expansion along the coastline, overfishing, and invasive species contribute to the changing face of the waterbody's ecosystem. Global climate change is another factor causing stress to the ecological balance in the Black Sea.

Latest Maritime and Military Activities in the Black Sea

The Black Sea remains an active region for military and maritime activities by the surrounding countries.

  • In July 2021, more than 30 ships and 2000 forces took part in Breeze 2021 maritime exercise. Led by Bulgaria, this 8-day long exercise was attended by the troops from 14 NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) partner nations.
  • In June 2021, Russia accused Britain of breaching its territorial waters. The concerned area in the Black Sea is considered to belong to Ukraine.
  • In March 2022, the Ministry of Defence in Britain accused Russia of having blockaded the coast of the Black Sea in Ukraine. Britain said this has isolated Ukraine from maritime travel and trade.

The Black Sea continues to be a crucial corridor for trade and transportation between East Europe and West Asia. The waterbody also holds significance in terms of political aspects. But human interventions and environmental factors are impacting the waterbody's ecosystem. This has to be checked for a sustainable future.

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FAQs on the Black Sea

Q.1. Why is the Black Sea known as the Black Sea?

The Black Sea is believed to have got its name from its dark watercolour or the climate conditions. Another theory attributes this name to colour symbolism related to cardinal directions in which black was used for the North. The once inhospitable nature of the sea is also considered a reason behind this name. But no clear reason has been found till now.

Q.2. Which country controls the straits that connect the Black Sea to the Mediterranean Sea?

Turkey exercises complete control over these straits that connect the Black Sea to the Mediterranean Sea.

Q.3. What makes the Black Sea anoxic?

The deep waters in the Black Sea don't mix with the waters in the upper part that receive atmospheric oxygen. As such, the lower water levels in the Black Sea are anoxic.

Q.4. Which is the largest island on the Black Sea?

The largest island on the Black Sea is the Zmiyinyy (Fidonisi) island belonging to Ukraine.