Two years ago, on 24 February 2022, Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine from multiple fronts. In addition to the widespread death and destruction it inflicted within Ukraine, the war also brought new ecological threats to the already vulnerable Black Sea region – an aspect that attracted little attention.

“You are the second journalist to reach out to me about this subject in two years,” Nesrin Algan told me, a political science professor specialized in urban, environmental and local government policies, “I am very saddened to witness that there is no strong political will to protect the Black Sea.”

Born and raised in the Black Sea city of Trabzon, Nesrin Algan has a deep personal connection to the region's worsening ecology.

As a fresh graduate, she began her career in 1984 at the environmental undersecretariat of the prime minister’s office, where she worked in the foreign relations department. Her initial project involved a proposal for a protection agreement for the Black Sea, initiated by the then Soviet Union, Bulgaria, and Romania.

Algan later represented Turkey in negotiations for the Convention on the Protection of the Black Sea Against Pollution, also known as the Bucharest Convention. Signed by Turkey, Romania, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Georgia, and the Russian Federation in 1992, the convention has been effective since 1994. As a bureaucrat turned academic, she is still actively involved in efforts to bring about more attention to the environmental damage caused by the war.

Equally vocal about the war’s ecological impacts on the greater region is Bayram Öztürk, a marine biology professor and the head of İstanbul University’s Faculty Of Aquatic Sciences.

"Imagine a war erupts in an already extremely fragile sea where millions of people live next to, and no one speaks out about it," he also complained. “Russians don’t care, Ukranians struggle for their lives and it appears that protecting the Black Sea’s biodiversity is very low on other countries’ priority list. Even most academics remain silent.”

Like Algan, Öztürk also devoted much of his career to studying the Black Sea and pushing for mechanisms to protect it.

The frustration that both academics voice is not without reason.

Our joint investigation by journalists from the Black Sea countries reveals a pervasive lack of will among governments, including Turkey, to closely monitor and address pressing environmental concerns, either individually or in coordination with each other.

This story sheds light on Turkey and the experts' calls for authorities to take necessary actions to protect the Black Sea, which unfortunately go unheeded.