Istanbul, Turkey: The coasts of the Sea of Marmara have been blanketed with a thick, dark, bubbling foam termed “sea snot,” scaring Istanbul residents and endangering aquatic life.
The naturally occurring mucilage was originally discovered in portions of the Aegean Sea in Greece in 2007, when it was also discovered in Turkey.
This outbreak, though, is the greatest on record, with experts blaming a mix of pollution and global warming for hastening the growth of the slimy sludge-causing algae.
As the gooey material lapped rows of adjacent boats, fisherman Mahsum Daga, 42, observed, “Of sure it hampers our business.”
“You know what it does to shellfish? When they open up, it prevents them from closing up again because it gets in the way. All the sea snails here are dead.”
Muharrem Balci, a biology professor at Istanbul University, said that when algae grow out of control in the spring, as they have this year, they block out the light and deplete oxygen for fish and marine life.
The “sea snot” is caused by a nutrient overload for the algae, which thrive in warm weather, and water pollution that has gotten worse over the last 40 years, according to Balci.
“This mucilage is now covering the sea surface like a tent canvas,” Balci told AFP.
“After a while, this cover collapses to the bottom and covers the (sea floor’s) ecosystem.”
This could poison mussels and other water critters like crabs.
“It will smell like a rotten egg unless this process is halted,” he said.
Plan of Action
The froth might blanket the water all summer, according to Cevahir Efe Akcelik, an environmental engineer and secretary-general of the Union of Chambers of Turkish Engineers and Architects.
“Studies show the mucilage is not only on the surface now but also goes 25 to 30 meters (80-100 feet) deep,” he told AFP.
The Sea of Marmara, which spans from the Bosphorus to the Aegean Sea along Istanbul’s southern shore, is densely inhabited and home to various industrial complexes.
It also absorbs part of the pollution that pours into the Black Sea from the dirty Danube River, which runs through eastern Europe, according to Balci.
“This is an extra burden for the Sea of Marmara,” said Balci, calling for a collective action plan for all of the sea’s coastal cities.
Workers are using nets to try to remove the muck, but their efforts have been mainly futile thus far.
According to Balci, a long-term solution will necessitate effective marine oversight as well as biological and chemical disposal systems for the sea’s towns and industrial zones.
Ali Oztunc, a member of the main opposition CHP party, has urged the government to penalize waste disposal facilities that do not follow the laws.
“The Sea of Marmara is an inland sea but, unfortunately, it is becoming an inland desert because of the wrong environmental policies,” he told AFP.
The ruling coalition of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan rejected a CHP motion to form a parliamentary committee to probe the “sea snot” on Tuesday.
Oztunc also urged Erdogan’s government to adopt the 2015 Paris Agreement, which aims to reduce carbon emissions and prevent global warming.
“The government should approve the Paris Agreement without delay,” Oztunc said.