Today the world celebrates Maritime Day. It is just another reason to ponder about the most effective and at the same time careful use of the precious water resource.
Ukraine is one of the lucky countries who have access to the sea. We have two of them – the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov.
The Day interviewed several experts about the areas in which Ukraine uses marine resources successfully and about the ones that require more work.
TOURSIM AND RECREATION
The Black and Azov Seas and their coastlines have their tourist advantages and disadvantages. Ihor Holubakha, head of the Ukrainian Association of Tour Operators, thinks that “From the tourist point of view, Ukraine uses its two seas absolutely ineffectively.”
“It would be better to use balneologic resources [curative mineral waters. – Ed.] more actively and build more spa hotels and resorts, which would use mud and seawater for treatment,” says the expert about the unused potential. He also thinks that Ukraine should be included in the chain of the Black Sea cruises “for more cruise liners to visit our ports.”
When talking about the strong touristic sides of our seas, Holubakha says: “Most industry in Ukraine sunk into oblivion. That is why our seas are relatively clean, and this undoubtedly is an argument in favor of having a vacation there.” The expert points out the chaotic construction development on the coastline, especially on public beaches, as one of the negative aspects. “It repels foreign and Ukrainian tourists, as well as locals from using marine resources and potential.”
But “seaside” science fares much better in Ukraine. Today, marine research is developing rather actively. The scientists say that there are plenty of new patents and big results, like a new way of growing giant Pacific oysters in the Black Sea, developed by doctors of biology Hanna Pirkova and Liudmyla Ladyhina from the Applied Oceanology Department at the Institute of Southern Seas Biology.
“We are the largest hydrobiological institution in Europe with 12 departments in Sevastopol alone, plus 5 more in Odesa. We study the entire spectrum of the Black Sea population and its mineral resources. We conduct research on the whole scope of the Ukrainian shelf zone. We work on cultivation of oysters and mussels, and prepare for cultivation of flounder,” says Yurii TOKAREV, doctor of biology, deputy head of the Kovalevsky Institute of Southern Seas Biology at the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine. “Now we are trying to set up a technology for cultivating the giant Pacific oyster. We have achieved a rather stable yield. We do not cultivate it directly, but we create technologies, provide consultations and support. Growing spirulina is another important area, we saturate this seaweed with various microelements. And then we turn it into powder and pills for sale.”
According to the scientist, marine pharmacology is one of the most interesting and promising areas now: extraction of bioactive, medicinal substances from marine products, such as seaweed, shellfish, and plankton. “These are ointments, pills, and tinctures that help cure a number of diseases, from dermatologic to internal ones. And we have a lot of patents,” sums up Tokarev.
Unfortunately, Ukraine is rapidly losing ground in matters of the marine-related economy sector. According to the third generation shipbuilder Viktor Lysytsky, today domestic shipyards are loaded only by 10 to 15 percent of their full capacity. And even this load is mostly provided by foreign companies. “Only about 10 percent of the Soviet-time production facilities are functioning now, if not even less than that. We were building 100 to 120 ships and vessels two decades ago, but now we build tens of times less,” Lysytsky says.
As for the use of sea in transport logistics, the state of affairs there is far from desired. “Twenty-two years ago, we received and sent more than 60 million tons of cargo with our ships from our ports. And last year, according to the official statistics, we sent only 3.4 million tons,” says Lysytsky. However, he mentions that the Ukrainian seaways are actively used by foreign ship owners. Last year they transported 150 million tons of cargo via the Ukrainian sea waters.
Against the background of everything that was said earlier, the Black and Azov Seas are affected by a variety of environmental problems. There is a number of the most urgent ones among them. “There is an international agreement – Convention on the Protection of the Black Sea against Pollution, which regulates the activity and cooperation of the Black Sea coastal countries. According to the Black Sea Commission evaluation, which coordinates activity within the framework of this Convention, pollution is one of the most glaring problems. And it is not even pollution with heavy metals and oil that much, as it is with organic compositions: fertilizers, agricultural chemicals, etc. This pollution leads to algal bloom,” says Viktor KARAMUSHKA, doctor of biology, member of the Advisory Group on Integrated Coastal Zone Management at the Black Sea Commission. “Another problem is the excessive use of the Black Sea natural resources: overfishing. Biodiversity in the Black Sea is rapidly decreasing in terms of population. The situation is also influenced by species originally alien to the Black Sea, which came from other regions, for example, the rapana. Also, the Black and Azov Seas suffer badly from what is happening on the shore. Besides, the Black Sea is harmed by man-made emergency situations, for example, shipwrecks.” According to Karamushka, the Sea of Azov once was very fertile. “There used to be much more life in it than in the Black Sea, and tremendously more than in the Mediterranean Sea. But our exhaustive practice of natural resources abuse led to a situation when the resources in it are spare now.”
Yurii KOSTIUCHENKO, expert in application of space research methods and use of satellite observation of the earth’s surface for risks and danger assessment:
“It terms of environmental and socioecological safety, initiatives of departments aimed at environmental preservation in the course of their professional activities should certainly be welcomed. In this sense, the World Maritime Day, established by the International Marine Organization at the United Nations and directed at highlighting the problems of environmental safety during sea transportation, is an important and relevant initiative. It is absolutely right to direct people’s attention to environmental safety problems during transportation. This is a problem of state control, responsibility of ship owners, awareness and responsibility of crew members and citizens. But there are unpredictable factors. Every year, more than 8,000 transport ships have serious accidents at sea. Annually, we leak more than 2,500 tons of oil and petrochemicals from transport ships due to accidents. And this does not include major accidents at oil platforms. The amount of poisonous substances that enter marine environment is very hard to calculate. About 700 tons of various kinds of poisons are dumped by transport vessels only. Besides, there are problems of hazardous waste disposal in the sea and illegal crude wastewater discharge. All these are significant harmful influences on the environment. Of course, general human impact on marine environment is not limited to issues listed above. The main factors still are products of agricultural activity and waste water, that is, pollution with nitrates, phosphates, herbicides, pesticides, etc.
Yurii KOSTIUCHENKO: “Our country is a traditionally naval state. We bring up a large number of researchers in this area, we have the world-famous Institute of Southern Seas Biology, Marine Hydrophysics Institute at the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine in Sevastopol, and Institute of Hydrobiology at the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine in Kyiv. We supply the international employment market with the largest number of sailors. That is why our attention should be focused on the matters of navigation and environmental safety, in particular, in marine transportation.”
“Changes in the ecological balance, breaking of trophic links, chronic pollution that accumulates in marine organisms eventually influence people’s health and quality of life. It is especially dangerous in the context of the existing climate and environmental changes.
“Besides, and this applies to sea transport again, scientists recently started defining noise pollution of sea environment as one that has significant impact on ecologic balance of coastal waters. But the role of the oceans for humankind, in present as well as in future, is crucial. Firstly, the ocean can be considered the ‘lungs’ of the planet, since a huge amount of phytoplankton processes large volumes of carbon dioxide, and this affects the escalation of the greenhouse effect and is an important part of the planet’s climate system. Secondly, the ocean is a source of biological resource, food resource in the first place. Fish is a traditional staple food for about 3 billion people. For more than 1.1 billion fish and fish products are the principal source of animal protein. The average annual consumption of fish is about 19 kilograms per person, and this number is constantly increasing. The ocean is becoming a source of the humankind’s food resources. Currently, about half of waters available for industrial use are completely developed, and another quarter is beyond the limit of depletion. Our task is to use the sea resources wisely, recreate them on a necessary level, and preserve the vulnerable marine ecosystem.
“Epidemic safety of coastal zones is a specific task, and very urgent for us. For example, the infamous outbreak of cholera in Mariupol in 2011 was caused by disruption of ecologic balance in sea waters, which led to the spread of the agent of the disease. And that is why we have to constantly pay attention to matters of ecologic safety of the marine environment.
“Our country is a traditionally naval state. We bring up a large number of researchers in this area, we have the world-famous Institute of Southern Seas Biology, Marine Hydrophysics Institute at the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine in Sevastopol, and Institute of Hydrobiology at the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine in Kyiv. We supply the international employment market with the largest number of sailors. That is why our attention should be focused on the matters of navigation and environmental safety, in particular, in marine transportation.”