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Black Sea Case Study


The case study describes and analyses the links between economic, social and ecological marine spatial planning processes with the aim of providing practical input for the development of a long-term strategy towards evaluation and monitoring of marine spatial planning in the Black Sea, both national and regional. There are 9 case studies developed under the MESMA project, which cover different seas and sea territories, surrounding the EU. All of them follow the same research design and taken together, they represent an extensive collection of studies of the EU sea territories.

Application in MSP:
Type of Issue:
Type of practice:
Stage of MSP cycle:
Cross-border / trans-national aspect:
Key words:

Questions this practice may help answer

  • What are the environmental conditions on the Black Sea coast?
  • Where do the main pressures for the environmental conditions on the Black Sea coast come from?

Implementation Context

Common interests and potential conflicts are present in the Black Sea region in nature protection and restoration, fisheries, regional industrial activities and accompanying pollution impacts, including oil development and production, development of transport infrastructure, including projects for regular maritime links between the ports of bordering states. Minor pressures exist from tourism and sand mining.

It is important to balance the different economic, social and ecological interests in the area. However, cooperation efforts are often hindered by a number of factors such as uneven economic and political development within and among countries and nationalist forces.

Aspects / Objectives

The Black Sea case study aims at supporting the Black Sea Basin Directorate in Bulgaria in developing the national marine strategy by using the MESMA framework and approach. The case study will provide practical input for the development of a long term strategy towards evaluation and monitoring of marine spatial planning in the Black Sea, both national and regional.


In the formulation of the Plan all relevant national, regional and municipal plans, programmes, strategies are taken into consideration. Major pressures (especially land-based) are mapped, ecological monitoring and assessment are made and risk analysis is carried out to identify waters that do not meet the standard values for relevant environmental indicators. The analysis in the report follows a seven-step methodological procedure:

Step 1a: Set temporal and spatial boundaries for SMA assessment

  • Identifying and mapping of existing management plans and sector plans
  • Identifying and mapping of planned spatial management initiatives
  • Describing the patterns of activities (existing, in progress and future planned)
  • Identifying and mapping of institutional landscapes
  • Finalising the temporal and spatial boundary for your SMA

Step 1b: Goals and operational objectives for SMA

  • Identifying existing or proposed management or sectoral plan and goals 
  • Identifying existing legal obligations and policy objectives 
  • Defining objectives and assessment of balance
  • Assessment of operational objectives  
  • Assessment of policy approaches
  • Concluding on goals and operational objectives 
  • Identifying stakeholders

Step 2a: Identify ecosystem components

  • Collect spatial information on ecosystem components / map ecosystem component
  • Conclude on all relevant ecosystem components

Step 2b: Identify pressures and impacts

Identification of sectors, future uses and pressures these exert on the ecosystem components identified in step 2a.
Mapping pressures and impacts using GIS considering cumulative impacts of pressures.

Step 2c: Identify existing management measures
Step 3: Selecting indicators and thresholds

Using available data from steps 1b and 2b

Step 4a: Risk analysis

  • Pressure identification 
  • Impact magnitude assessment
  • Probability assessment
  • Risk characterization
  • Indicator state assessment

Step 5: Assessing findings against operational objectives

  • Identifying success and failure of objectives
  • Assessing the level of success and importance
  • Reassessing indicators and thresholds

Step 6: Evaluate management effectiveness

Write a report on the management effectiveness

Step 7: Recommend adaptations to current management

This is a map fairways, anchorage areas, areas forbidden for shipping, dump sites for dredged material disposal, gas pipelines, cables, military zones.

Main Outputs / Results

The main output of the practice is a case study report that analyses the environmental, economic and social conditions at the Bulgarian Black Sea coast. It includes a large number of GIS maps and layers used to visualise the collected data.


The practice, in the sense of the methodological framework for the development of a case study, is fully transferable and can be applied to a multitude of context. The practice has already been transferred to different contexts under the MESMA project with the development of a total of 9 case studies covering different seas and sea territories in the EU.

Contact Person

Cor Schipper

Case study co-author


E-mail: (cor[dot]schipper[at]deltares[dot]nl)

Costs / Funding Source

This practice was elaborated under MESMA, a large collaborative project co financed by the EU Seventh Programme Framework. Direct costs of its elaboration are unknown.