Black Sea (in Russian and Bulgarian – Chernoye More, in Ukrainian – Chorne More, in Turkish – Karadenız, in Romanian – Marea Neagră) is a large inland sea situated at the southeastern extremity of Europe. It is bordered by Ukraine to the north, Russia to the northeast, Georgia to the east, Türkiye to the south, and Bulgaria and Romania to the west.

The roughly oval-shaped Black Sea occupies a large basin strategically situated at the southeastern extremity of Europe but connected to the distant waters of the Atlantic Ocean by the Bosporus (which emerges from the sea’s southwestern corner), the Sea of Marmara, the Dardanelles, the Aegean Sea and the Mediterranean Sea. The Crimean Peninsula thrusts into the Black Sea from the north, and just to its east the narrow Kerch Strait links the sea to the smaller Sea of Azov. Two of the largest rivers in Europe in terms of discharge – Danube and Dniepr – flow into the Black Sea and contribute to the low levels of salinity in the sea water. Only connected to the World Ocean through the narrow Bosphorus Strait, the Black Sea is an almost closed sea where the deeper layers of water column do not mix with the upper layers, which receive oxygen from the atmosphere. As a result, the deeper layers of water are for the most part anoxic.

The Black Sea coastline is otherwise fairly regular. The maximum east-west extent of the sea is about 730 miles (1,175 km), and the shortest distance between the tip of Crimea and Cape Kerempe to the south is about 160 miles (260 km). The surface area, excluding the Sea of Marmara but including the Sea of Azov, is about 178,000 square miles (461,000 square km); the Black Sea proper occupies about 163,000 square miles (422,000 square km). A maximum depth of more than 7,250 feet (2,210 metres) is reached in the south-central sector of the sea.

In ancient Greek myths, the sea – then on the fringe of the Mediterranean world – was named Pontus Axeinus, meaning “Inhospitable Sea”. Later explorations made the region more familiar, and, as colonies were established along the shores of a sea the Greeks came to know as more hospitable and friendly, its name was changed to Pontus Euxinus, the opposite of the earlier designation. It was across its waters that, according to legend, Jason and the Argonauts set out to find the Golden Fleece in the land of Colchis, a kingdom at the sea’s eastern tip (now Georgia). The Turks, when they came to control the lands beyond the sea’s southern shores, encountered only the sudden storms whipped up on its waters and reverted to a designation reflecting the inhospitable aspect of what they now termed the Karadenız, or Black Sea.

To scientists, the Black Sea is a remarkable feature because its lower levels are, to all intents and purposes, almost biologically dead – not because of pollution but because of continued weak ventilation of the deep layers. To the countries of the region, the Black Sea has been of immense strategic importance over the centuries; the advent of more-settled conditions has brought its economic importance to the fore.

The Black Sea is an important year-round transportation artery, linking the eastern European countries with world markets. Odessa, the historic Ukrainian city, together with the nearby port of Illichivsk, account for most of the sea’s freight turnover. The ports of Novorossiysk and, to a lesser extent, Tuapse (both in Russia) and Batumi (Georgia) farther to the east specialize in petroleum. In Bulgaria, Varna and Burgas are the main ports. Constanța, in Romania, connects oil-bearing regions with foreign markets. Istanbul on the Sea of Marmara is Türkiye’s main port, while the Danube acts as a huge trade artery for the Balkan countries.

Fish constitute the most widely utilized biological resource of the Black Sea. Conservation and antipollution measures have included the banning of dolphin fishing, enacted by Soviet authorities in 1966, as well as restrictions on oil tankers and the disposal of industrial wastes.
In the 1990s the six Black Sea countries signed the Convention on the Protection of the Black Sea Against Pollution (also called Bucharest Convention), a comprehensive agreement to implement an array of additional programs to control pollution, sustain the fisheries, and protect marine life.

Finally, the magnificent climate and mineral springs around the Black Sea have made it a major recreational and recuperative centre, with Crimea being the most important region. The sandy beaches of Bulgaria and Romania also have attracted an increasing number of tourists (

The Black Sea region is regarded as a ‘strategic bridge’ an economic, geo-political and trade corridor of strategic importance, connecting to the Mediterranean Sea via the Marmara and Aegean Seas, and Europe with Asia to the Caspian Sea, Central Asia and the Middle East and
with south-east Asia and China. It is a dynamic, heterogeneous region of political, economic and diversified societal cultures characterised by the countries’ close ties and their great economic potential, but also by diverging interests.

The wider Black Sea region comprises three European Union (EU) Member States (Bulgaria, Greece and Romania), three candidate countries for EU membership (Albania, Serbia, Türkiye), five Eastern partner countries (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine) and the Russian Federation. The Black Sea region is an important crossroads through which many goods transit. It is an economic area with a potential for blue growth. The region accounts for more than 34% of natural gas and oil imports to the EU; these are mostly produced onshore but recently there has also been development in offshore areas, i.e. Romania 8% of its overall production is offshore crude, Bulgaria etc.

The semi-enclosed area offers a privileged environment for the development of the maritime activities. Tourism also bears importance for the littoral states and accounts for a significant share of the generated Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Fishing and aquaculture also represent important economic activities at regional level with differences between the States. The combination of different human activities performed in the same semi-enclosed area requires good planning and an even greater cooperation between countries due to the narrowness of the basin.

The Blue Economy is a gateway to sustainable economic growth and jobs, and has a great potential for socioeconomic impact, not only for coastal and maritime regions. The Blue Economy integrates both traditional sectors such as maritime transport, aquaculture and the most innovative ones such as blue biotechnology and ocean energy. In the following, some assessments are made of the situation of the economic sectors under consideration, with a comparative analysis highlighting both the similarities between the five countries and the elements that distinguish them from one another.

Learn more: “Pathways for Boosting Blue Businesses in the Black Sea Region” Consolidated regional report


*This Project has received funding from the European Union’s European Maritime, Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund (EMFAF) under Grant Agreement 101077576.

**Funded by the European Union. Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or CINEA. Neither the European Union nor the granting authority can be held responsible for them.

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