Record-setting blob of 'sea snot' has environmentalists concerned

By Maura Kelly,
The Marmara Sea is covered by "sea snot" in Istanbul, Turkey, on Sunday. Photo by Erdem Sahin/EPA-EFE
The Marmara Sea is covered by "sea snot" in Istanbul, Turkey, on Sunday. Photo by Erdem Sahin/EPA-EFE

Thick layers of unsightly brown foam, nicknamed "sea snot," have developed along the coast of Turkey, and officials warn the phenomenon could have major impacts on the environment and is in danger of lasting all summer.

The slimy substance that ranges in color from off-white to brown that is collecting along the shores of the Marmara coast of northern Turkey is called marine mucilage.


The mucilage blooms can also be seen developing along the coast of the adjoining Black and Aegean seas during the spring and summer as water temperatures rise.

The mucilage is an organic material that is produced by algae that thrive in warm and nutrient-dense waters. Most of the nutrients come from pollution and wastewater that is dumped into the sea.

Sea snot was first documented along the coasts of Turkey and Greece in 2007, but this year's bloom is the largest on record, according to The Guardian.

Cevahir Efe Akcelik, an environment engineer and secretary-general of the Union of Chambers of Turkish Engineers and Architects, told the Guardian that the foam could cover the sea all summer unless urgent measures are taken.

"Studies show the mucilage is not only on the surface now but also goes 25 to 30 [meters] (80-100 feet) deep," he added.


The mucilage can have devastating effects on marine life in the area.

Muharrem Balci, a biology professor at Istanbul University, said that when algae grow out of control in the springtime they can block out the sunlight, which depletes oxygen in the water, suffocating fish and other marine life.

Balci added that when the mucilage drops to the sea floor it can impact that ecosystem and poison shellfish, such as crabs.

The fishing industry has been affected by the sea snot outbreak, said Mahsum Daga, a local fisherman, adding that the sludge prevents shellfish from closing again once they open up.

"All the sea snails here are dead," he told The Guardian.

The Sea of Marmara sits between the Black Sea and the Aegean Sea. It also is referred to as an inland sea and separates Turkey's European and Asian sides.

Workers have been tasked with removing the sea snot with nets, but it has been largely ineffective, The Guardian reported.

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