Windsurfers battle Black Sea’s plastic pollution
The beach is paradise, especially for Bulgarian windsurfers lliyana Stoilova and Yoan Kolev.
But, their blissful paradise, around the coastal resort of Primorsko on Bulgaria’s Black Sea, is increasingly being blighted by growing levels of plastic pollution—from bottles to bags.
“In large parts, actually, there is litter that is preventing us from surfing in the sea because there are days when we literally have to go around parts of rubbish,” says Kolev, who co-founded Akasha Surf school with his partner Stoilova.
The Black Sea serves as a drainage basin for much of Europe, but only has one outflow, through the Bosphorus—a narrow strait separating mainland Europe and Turkey.
According to a 2017 study conducted by the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences and the Laboratory for Marine Ecology, about three tons of plastic waste enters the Black Sea every day.
“The Black Sea is like an enclosed basin, where the waste is like in a washing machine and there is nowhere it can flow out and escape, so it just stays in it.”
The couple have both been surfing in the Black Sea since they were children.
Kolev, a former Olympic athlete, represented Bulgaria at the London 2012 Olympic Games.
His partner Stoilova has been a windsurf instructor for over ten years.
Moved by the growing levels of plastic pollution on their beaches, the couple started a campaign to raise awareness about the problem, it’s called ‘WIND2WIN.’
“We are planning to cross the Bulgarian part of the Black Sea coastline—from the most northern point, Durankulak to the most southern, where Rezovo is,” explains Kolev, in order to get an idea of the pollution levels in different parts of the sea.
Dimitar Berov is a marine ecologist who was involved in the 2017 study of the Black Sea.
It’s thought to be the first major study to assess the amount of micro plastics floating in the large body of water.
Micro-plastics are classed as either fragments of plastics bags or cosmetic micro beads that are smaller than half a centimetre. The minute pieces of plastic go down drains in our bathrooms and pollute our oceans.
Once in the water, the tiny fragments become coated in seaweed, making them look like food. As a result, they are eaten by fish, marine mammals and birds.
Nowadays, the materials are found in the stomachs of a whole range of sea creatures living in or around the seas.
“When we collected our samples, analysed them and compared the numbers of micro-plastics in this part of the Black Sea to other studies, it turned out that here the same amount of plastics is found from that type as there are in the seas in Northern Europe, the Northern Sea, along the coasts of England and France, of Holland,” says Berov.
“Some of the pollution levels were actually similar to those famous ones in the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. So, it turned out here we have that same problem as all over the world’s oceans.”
About 90 percent of all solid waste the researchers found was plastic – things like fishing nets, plastic bottles, packaging and plastic bags.
Berov doubts they’ll ever find a solution.
“If I have to be honest, I don’t think this problem can be solved,” he says.
“Plastics will continue to flow into the seas and concentrate there. The only thing that we can do is to stop throwing it uncontrollably into the environment, so that this pollution doesn’t continue without an end.”