Marine Biotechnology in Black Sea basin
The Black Sea is a remarkable regional sea almost completely separated from the rest of the world's oceans and embodying an abyssal basin with maximum depth of 2300m adjoining a very wide continental shelf area.
It is characterised by strong stratification under the influence of fresh water supplied by large rivers and the inflow of Mediterranean water through the Bosphorus (Istanbul) Strait. European rivers, the Danube, Dnieper and Don via the Sea of Azov, flow into this sea but its only weak link with other seas is with the Mediterranean through the Bosphorus Strait, the Sea of Marmara and the Dardanelle. Main rivers such as the Rioni, Kodori and Inguri Chorokh, Kyzyl-Irmak, Eshil-Irmak, Sakarya, Southern Bug and Dnister also flow into the Black Sea. The Black Sea catchment area is about six times that of the sea surface area. For this reason, the Black Sea is very vulnerable to pressure from land based human activity and its health is equally dependent from the coastal and non-coastal states of its basin.
The thin upper layer of marine water (up to 150 m) supports the unique biological life in the Black Sea ecosystem. The deeper and more dense water layers are saturated with hydrogen sulfide, that over thousands years, accumulated from decaying organic matter in the Black Sea. Due to the unique geomorphological structure and specific hydrochemical conditions, specific organisms, basically on the level of protozoa, bacteria, and some multi-cellular invertebrates inhabit the deep-sea waters. Knowledge about biological forms of life in the deep waters of the Black Sea is very limited. The disturbance of the natural balance between the two layers could trigger irreversible damage to the people and ecosystem of the Black Sea.
Overarching regional science strategies, plans and policies
There is currently no overarching regional science strategy or plan specifically focusing on marine biotechnology research and development. General marine science issues are considered by organisations such the Black Sea Commission  (main focus on environmental protection of the Black Sea). The Seas-ERA Project and the Black Sea ERANET, a network designed to intensify and coordinate research cooperation (January 2009 – December 2012) are past projects.
The Black Sea harbours many marine plants – more than 2000 species of plankton and benthic microalgae and over 300 species of algae and sea grasses. The sea grasses constitute a natural biomass from which 1 million ton could be harvested annually to be used for energy production or other valuable extractions. The harvest of other algae, which are markedly less abundant, would threaten the ecosystem of the Black Sea. An alternative path suggests the farming of biologically valuable micro/macroalgae, especially Black Sea microalgae with high restocking rates.
Research on the culture and biosynthesis of microalgae is a priority for the extraction of the industry of valuable products and biologically active substances (BASs) in the Black Sea. Pertinent examples to these products are food proteins, oils, vitamins, compounds of high bactericidal action, toxicants, volatile oils, gelling agents, cytochromes, amino acids, chlorophyllcarotene complexes, etc. One major obstacle hindering the realization of marine algotechnology is the absence of the theoretical management of microalgal growth and biosynthesis; without which profitable farming of Black sea microalgae is unattainable.
The search for commercially promising microalgal species inhabiting the Black Sea is among the actively developing trends of the biotechnology, because of the:
- high biological importance of natural BASs as strong antioxidants, immunomodulators, radio‐, UV‐ and chemoprotectors, antitumor agents, immune, cardio‐vascular and nerve system stimulators;
- broad spectrum of application (pharmaceutics, production of nutriceutics, natural food colorants, dietetic foodstuffs, fodder additives for aquaculture, poultry and cattle breeding, cosmetics, etc.);
- steadily increasing market need for natural BASs in response to the World Health Organization initiative for complete elimination of synthetic BASs from food and forage manufacture.
For rational use of microalgal biomass of the Black Sea, it is important to develop biotechnologies for culturing new species fit with optimal biochemical composition required for different purposes. Therefore elaboration of new approaches to produce mass quantities of micro/macroalgae and the corresponding BASs is essential for the advancement of small‐ and medium‐scale businesses related to marine biotechnologies.
Key research issues:
- Growth management of cultured BS microalgae: the theoretical and experimental simulation.
- Microalgal screening for commercially promising producers of biologically active substances (BAS).
- Growing microalgal biomass as a biochemically optimal fodder stimulating growth and survival rates of different developmental stages of cultured bivalve molluscs, fishes and crustaceans.
- Designing the biotechnology for acquiring biologically important pigments from BS microalgae.
- Screening macrophytes having adapted to the present BS environment as commercially interesting objects for the biotechnologies.
Infrastructures and coordination and support capacities / initiatives
Specific initiatives in the Black Sea countries can be found in the country profiles of this report (for European countries) and that of the global landscape report of the CSA MarineBiotech.
Other specific initiatives include:
- Black Sea Biotechnology Association is an international public non-profit organization which current focus is mainly on promoting land-based and agricultural biotechnology.
- The FP7 Black Sea SCENE Project (2009-2011) consisted of 51 partners of which 43 are located in the Black Sea countries. The aim of the project is to stimulate scientific cooperation, exchange of knowledge and expertise, and strengthens the regional capacity and performance of marine environmental data & information management, underpins harmonization with European marine data quality control/assessment procedures and adoption of international meta-data standards and data-management practices, providing improved data & information delivery services for the Black Sea region at a European level. While it is focussing on environmental data and information, the project website does cover marine biology topics, refers to databases of marine bioresources and relevant projects.
- Gombori, an international company with activities in Georgia has an industrial biotech focus. The company holds a strain collection including extremophiles.
- Black Sea ERANET (January 2009 – December 2012) a network designed to intensify and coordinate research cooperation.
- Black Sea Research Network. The Black Sea Research Network (BSRN) is an action-focused and multidisciplinary network of policy-oriented research institutes that develop research programmes on issues of importance to the political, social and economic development of the Black Sea region. It represents an innovative attempt to structure and coordinate a network of research institutes (and researchers) focusing on the wider Black Sea region .
- Black Sea Universities Network. The Black Sea Universities Network (BSUN) has been established based on the recommendation of the PABSEC Cultural, Education and Social Affairs Committee during the session held in Bucharest in August 1997. The BSUN was founded for the purpose of developing educational, scientific, and cultural cooperation and exchanges among the Universities of the BSEC Member States and other institutions with similar concern.
- Black Sea Trust for Regional Cooperation. The Black Sea Trust will fund programs that strengthen cross-border ties, civic participation, democratic governance, and the rule of law in the wider Black Sea region. The broad goals of the Black Sea Trust include building trust among citizens in their public institutions and to strengthen this critical set of institutions; affirming the value of citizen participation in the democratic process; and fostering regional, cross-border ties in the public, private, and non-profit sectors.
- Commission on the Black Sea. The Commission on the Black Sea is a civil society initiative developed and launched jointly in 2009 by the Bertelsmann Stiftung, the Black Sea Trust for Regional Cooperation, the Economic Policy Research Foundation of Turkey (TEPAV), and the International Centre for Black Sea Studies (ICBSS).
- Landscape and Biodiversity Protocol. Sitting under the Bucharest Convention this Protocol aims to maintain the Black Sea ecosystem in the good ecological state and its landscape in the favourable conditions, to protect, to preserve and to sustainably manage the biological and landscape diversity of the Black Sea in order to enrich the biological resources.
- The Commission on the Protection of the Black Sea Against Pollution. The Commission on the Protection of the Black Sea Against Pollution (the Black Sea Commission or BSC) via its Permanent Secretariat is the intergovernmental body established in implementation of the Convention on the Protection of the Black Sea Against Pollution (Bucharest Convention), its Protocols and the Strategic Action Plan for the Rehabilitation and Protection of the Black Sea .
- The Action Plan-BS. The aim of the Action Plan-BS Project has been the preparation of an Action Plan in Science and Technology for the Black Sea countries and its adoption at the level of relevant Ministers. To achieve its goal the project included preparatory work on a draft Action Plan and the organisation of two events: a High Level Officials meeting and a Ministerial Meeting .
- The Black Sea Initiative. The Black Sea Synergy programme was developed by EU in order to tackle concrete initiatives looking at areas like transport, energy, the environment, maritime management, fisheries, migration, and the fight against organised crime, the information society and cultural cooperation.
- The Inogate Programme. The INOGATE Programme is an international energy cooperation programme between the European Union, the littoral states of the Black & Caspian Seas and their neighbouring countries.
This draft profile is based on available online information sources and contributions from various country experts and stakeholders. It does not aim nor claim to be complete or final, but should be considered as a dynamic and living information resource that will be elaborated, updated and improved as more information becomes available, including further inputs from experts and stakeholders.
The information on this page is based on information initially compiled by the European Marine Board as part of the CSA MarineBiotech Project activities (2011-2013).