Marine Ecosystems 2013-2014


The oceans of the world cover two thirds of the Earth’s surface and play a key role in supporting life on the planet. Humans affect the oceans in a multitude of ways, either directly or indirectly. While open oceans are less impacted by human activities, coastal areas, enclosed and semi-enclosed seas are highly degraded. Several of Europe’s enclosed seas are under so severe threats that immediate actions are needed to save them before an ecological disaster occurs. The common problems these seas are confronted with are lack of effective catchment management, waste dumping, increased pollution and sedimentation, eutrophication, intense over-exploitation of resources, acidification, introduction of exotic species, and increased off-shore activities. Fishing is the best documented human activity that affects marine systems due to the over-exploitation of the stocks, by-catches, destructive fishing methods and politically motivated subsidies. The future of marine fisheries and the urgent need to transform this activity into a sustainable one are discussed. Aquaculture is becoming increasingly important and its huge potential represents a possibility to alleviate the pressure on fish stocks. The main characteristics of enclosed seas are presented, with an overview of the similarities and differences existing between the European seas. The unique characteristics of the Black Sea, the world’s largest land-locked and anoxic sea, are discussed. A variety of human activities threaten European enclosed seas and rapid  measures to decrease and even halt their impacts are required. Management strategies of the functions and resources provided by the Black Sea are presented at local, national and regional level. The conservation and restoration programmes along the Danube basin and delta are vital since the river, delta and marine basin function as a single geosystem. A better understanding of this ecological system and concerted international action offer hope for the future.