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Area description

The Romanian Black Sea Coast is well known for its fine soft sand and safe gently sloping beaches. The water of the Black Sea has a low salinity in comparison with other inland seas (only 17%). There is a virtual absence of tides and currents, indeed on most days during the summer the sea is calm. The medium latitude and the low altitude are favorable to a dry climate and determine a long season, lasting from May to October. The eastern exposure of the coast provides for spectacular sunrises and maximum luminosity, amounting to over 14 hours a day at the height of summer. Mamaia is particularly suitable for families because of its safe 8 km beach, fringed by wild pear trees and renowned for its fine soft sand.

MAMAIA: According to legend, the gods created Mamaia to reunite a kidnapped princess with her daughter who was trapped on the shore crying Mamaia! Mamaia! It is the oldest of all Romanian Black Sea resorts. It was developed in 1906, on a narrow spit of land between Siutghiol Lake (one of the largest fresh water lakes in Romania) and the Black Sea, just 5 km north of Constanta. The resort blossomed after 1919, with the establishment of a casino and opulent villas and it became a summer residence of King Ferdinand.

Mamaia Beach has the highest concentration of tourism activities and has been experiencing severe erosion.

Erosion Causes

Hydrotechnical works built on the Danube and its tributaries have resulted in a serious decrease of Danube sediment load, imposing negative consequences on the littoral sediment balance. In addition, hydrotehnical and harbour works intercepted the longshore drift which meant a decrease of the littoral sediments and caused acute erosion especially on Mamaia beach. Different types of hydrotehnical protection works have been built in the southern part of the coast which was most affected by the erosion.

Erosion affecting the Mamaia beach

Coastal erosion is a particular problem at Mamaia, due to the Midia harbour extension dike (5 Km long) which acts as a barrier to longshore currents running from north to south. This dike is deflecting the longshore sediments drifting offshore to the south-east and thus Mamaia beach was transformed in a bay, almost totally lacking natural sediment supply. There was a general decrease of the sediment supply in the littoral zone after damning the Danube river which also added to the erosion.

In winter of 1988, the southern part of the beach was severely destroyed by erosion. The coastline retreated to 59 m, between 1966 and 1988 and 88900 sq m of the beach surface eroded. Urgent protection measures were required (6 longshore breakwaters and an artificial nourishment) for Mamaia beach. After the implementation of coastal protection the shoreline retreated to only 35 m and in a small area. Accumulation was registered with maximum value of 15 m between 1978 and 1995.


The southern part of Mamaia Beach
a) in 1961 before the Midia harbour construction
b) in 1986 - after that

Effects of coastal protection

Beach nourishment is increasingly being used as a more acceptable 'soft' management option as opposed to the 'harder' engineered breakwaters and groins.
The advantages of beach nourishment as a management option include the positive aesthetic results which often enhance recreational value and the minimal probability of causing down-drift erosion. Beach nourishment at Mamaia was applied to re-charge the eroded beach with appropriate sand material, but unfortunately the sand material that was used turned out to be very fine and it was not possible to obtain an exact match. Basic guidelines include the principle that the material used for replenishment must correspond in form and size to the local beach material. In the case of Mamaia beach this element was neglected. Another important and elementary principle which was overlooked is that extremes should be avoided because when the beach material is too fine (e. g. sand from Siutghiol Lake) this results in local turbidity and water retention problems. The results were enhanced erosion rates which were higher than normal for this sort of environment.  

The effects of the breakwaters are moderately positive, dissipating the energy of incoming waves and reducing the wave force. As a consequence, the southern part of Mamaia beach is partially protected against erosion, but only the parts in shadow of the breakwaters which allow the beach to restore. The underwater profiles in the shallow water of the protected area of Mamaia beach reveals the modification of the isobaths (-1 up to - 4) position seaward at the back of the breakwaters.

Negative aspects of the breakwaters could be mentioned:

  • Anaesthetic view of the detached breakwaters;
  • Breakwaters extremities fall down due to erosion process;
  • Changes in current direction induce beach erosion between breakwaters;
  • Erosion process extended in the unprotected beach area.

Undesirable effects:

  • Changes of current regime;
  • Important changes in beach profile;
  • Decrease the sediment transport;
  • Bathing water quality in summer season;
  • Migration of the tetrapods from the breakwaters.


A potential risk of coastal erosion

The erosion risk exists in Mamaia beach because it is a narrow sand bar which is exposed to hydrodynamic forces and lacks sediment supply. Coastal protection measures have been carried out during the communism regime when Mamaia was severly affected by erosion. The infrastructure and the touristic activities were damaged. A large part of the beach disappeared and so did the promenade. If the erosion process continues and no proper action to protect the beaches is taken. There is a potential risk for the beach and the resort to be damaged in case of an eventual strong storm in the future.

Tourist capacity

Mamaia resort has the largest tourism capacity along the Romanian Black Sea Coast, representing 26 474 beds in 61 hotels (1 to 5 stars), 14 villas and 3 camps in 2002. It is situated between Siutghiol Lake and the Black Sea north of Constanta is linked with it. It was founded in 1906 when the first balneal building was built. After 1919 a Casino and residential villas of Ferdinand King were built. In the second stage at the beginning of sixties the first hotels have been built. The new resort became famous in the southern east part of the Europe because of the fine sandy beach.



For all the seaside resorts from the southern part of the Romanian coast including Mamaia

Tourist fluxes
1997 1998 1999 2000 2001
Overseas tourist 72452
Native tourists
782084 844056
Total tourists
757789 745504

Consequences of the beach erosion on tourism

Mamaias beach surface calculated on a shore length of 1.5 km has diminished around 65% between 1966 and 1988. With a figure of 4 sq.m of beach area per tourist. This amount of beach loss means a total decrease of tourist capacity of about 11 000 tourists over the next 22 years.

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