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The Effect of Dense Maritime Traffic On The Bosphorus Strait and Marmara Sea Pollution

Mehmet E. Birpınar, Gonca F. Talu, Gönül Su, Mehmet Gülbey

Proceedings of BALWOIS 2006


The Bosphorus Strait is a geological strait separating the European and the Asian parts of Istanbul and it lies between the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara. Historically, the Bosphorus has a strategic importance since it is the only maritime route for the five neighboring Black Sea states and the Central Asian Turkish Republics.

Although the Bosphorus strait is a difficult body of water to navigate due to its treacherous currents, great twists and turns, it is one of the heaviest sea-traffic regions in the World. The volume of traffic in Bosphorus is five times heavier than the traffic in the Panama Canal. In 1936, when the Treaty of Montreaux had been signed, the number of ships passing through Bosphorus was only 4500 per year. Today, about 55000 ships pass through the Bosphorus per year.

The Strait has very special ecological conditions in terms of both marine environment and terrestrial environment since it connects two different seas, Mediterranean Sea and Black Sea, which have different salinity, temperature etc. In addition, the Turkish Straits (Bosphorus and Canakkale) form an "acclimatization zone" for transiting species, allowing those from the Mediterranean to adjust to the different environmental conditions in the Black Sea, and vice versa.

International importance of the Sea of Marmara stands in the forefront even though it is an inland sea of Turkey and it deals with increasing ecological problems for the last 50 years. The Pollution in the Sea of Marmara which threatens all living species cause dramatic falling in fishing potential.

Increase in the volume of maritime traffic on the Strait and the Sea of Marmara have increased the risk of the maritime accidents over the years and since 1948 the number of ship accidents have been recorded as around 700. Furthermore, being on the transportation way of hazardous and dangerous materials pose environmental and safety hazards for the Bosphorus Strait and the Marmara Sea with the surrounding residential areas.

In this paper, adverse effects and environmental impacts of dense maritime traffic in Istanbul and measures to take to prevent and lessen maritime accidents are discussed.

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