Thick, brown and bubbly foam dubbed “sea snot” has blanketed the shores of the Sea of Marmara, alarming the people of Istanbul and threatening marine life.
Natural mucilage was first documented in Turkey in 2007, when it was also observed in parts of the Aegean Sea near Greece.
But this outbreak is the largest on record, blamed by experts on a combination of pollution and global warming, which is accelerating the growth of the algae responsible for the slimy sludge.
“Of course it affects our work,” said fisherman Mahsum Daga, 42, as the slimy substances crushed rows of surrounding boats.
“Do you know what it does to seashells?” When they open, it prevents them from closing as it gets in the way. All the sea snails here are dead.
Istanbul University biology professor Muharrem Balci said that when algae gets out of hand in the spring, as it did this year, it blocks the sun and causes oxygen depletion for fish and the sea. marine life.
“Sea snot” results from some sort of nutrient overload for algae, which relish the hot weather and water pollution that has gradually worsened over the past 40 years, Balci said.
“This mucilage now covers the surface of the sea like a tent canvas,” Balci said. “After a while, this blanket collapses to the bottom and covers the ecosystem (of the seabed).”
It could poison mussels and sea creatures such as crabs.
“It will smell like a rotten egg unless this process is stopped,” he said.
Cevahir Efe Akcelik, an environmental engineer and secretary general of the Union of Chambers of Turkish Engineers and Architects, said the foam could cover the sea all summer unless urgent action is taken.
“Studies show that the mucilage is not only on the surface now, but also reaches 25 to 30 meters (80-100 feet) in depth,” he said.
The Sea of Marmara, which stretches along the southern coast of Istanbul from the Bosporus to the Aegean Sea, is densely populated and is home to many industrial sites.
Balci said it also absorbs some of the waste that drains into the Black Sea adjacent to the polluted Danube that runs through Eastern Europe.
“This is an additional burden on the Sea of Marmara,” said Balci, calling for a collective action plan for all the coastal towns of the sea.
Workers try to remove the sludge with netting, but their efforts so far have proved largely ineffective.
Balci said a lasting solution requires proper marine monitoring, as well as biological and chemical disposal systems for cities and industrial areas in the sea.
Ali Oztunc, an MP from the main opposition CHP party, urged the government to impose tough penalties on waste disposal facilities that do not follow the rules.
“The Sea of Marmara is an inland sea but, unfortunately, it is becoming an inland desert because of bad environmental policies,” he told AFP.
On Tuesday, President Recept Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling coalition rejected a CHP proposal to create a parliamentary commission to investigate “sea snot”.
Oztunc also called on Erdogan’s government to finally approve the 2015 Paris Agreement, which aims to limit rising temperatures by reducing carbon emissions.
“The government should approve the Paris agreement without delay,” Oztunc said.