October 31 is the annual Black Sea Day. On the eve of this date, the International Union for Conservation of Nature officially approved the list and boundaries of water areas important for the conservation of marine mammals in the Black and Caspian Seas. In particular, these waters included the entire Sea of Azov, the Kerch Strait, as well as the marine waters of the Black Sea adjacent to the Kerch Peninsula and Sevastopol.

“The Black Sea has only a few small protected areas in coastal waters,” says Mr. Marian Paiu, Ecology & Marine Mammal expert with Mare Nostrum in Romania. “Besides Vama Veche and the Danube Delta in Romania, the existing maritime protected include the Kaliakra Cape in Bulgaria, Kolcheti in Georgia, and the Chornomorsky Biosphere Reserve in Ukraine. But vulnerable open sea habitats, as well as highly exploited port and resort areas, are left out of protection.”

“Both of our dolphin species and our Black Sea porpoise are in urgent need of habitat protection,” says Dr. Pavel Goldin, leading researcher from the Department of Evolutionary Morphology, Schmalhausen Institute of Zoology, in the Ukraine. “We’re losing them mainly to bycatch, the incidental mortality in fishing nets”.

Particularly acute is the issue of protecting natural migration corridors such as the Kerch Strait which connects the northern Black Sea to the Sea of Azov. A small population of harbour porpoises, known for its distinct morphotype, lives in the Sea of Azov in summer and migrates through this strait, they are the most vulnerable now, scientists said.