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Sea snot outbreak in Turkey: What is it and why it’s harming marine ecosystem explained -

Sea snot outbreak in Turkey: What is it and why it’s harming marine ecosystem explained


The country’s President has blamed it on the dumping of sewage in the sea along with rising temperatures. Image: Reuters

Amid the growing environmental concerns in regards with global warming, Turkey has witnessed some unprecedented sludge in its sea water. The Sea of Marmara, which connects the Aegean Sea and Black Sea, has witnessed marine mucilage accumulation (commonly known as sea snot) and become a cause of grave concern for Turkey. The slimy layer of grey/ green sludge, having the ability to damage marine ecosystems, has blanketed harbors and shorelines. In order to resolve the problem, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will be taking considerable steps.

Understanding sea snot


Sea snot is formed when algae present in the water becomes overloaded with nutrients. The increase in these nutrients is a result of water pollution as well as climate change impact. Global warming causes water to be warm and algae feast on it, resulting in more nutrients. According to the environmental experts, phytoplankton are overproduced leading to formation of thick and slimy layers of organic matter.

It is to note that this is not the first time a ‘sea snot’ outbreak has taken place. The formation was first recorded in 2007 in the Aegean Sea near Greece. However, the current outbreak is much more severe when compared to the previous one. The country’s President has blamed it on the dumping of sewage in the sea along with rising temperatures. According to him, untreated water from big cities like Istanbul has been discharged into the sea.

Now, the mucilage is problematic as it poses a threat to the marine ecosystem of Turkey. It has been found that fishes in masses have been killed along with other aquatic organisms like corals and sponges. Initially, the mucilage was covering the sea surface and now it has spread 80-100 feet below the water surface as well. If this collapses to the bottom and stagnates on the seafloor, a major damage can be caused. After some time, it can poison all aquatic life there including crabs, fishes, oysters, mussels and sea stars.


Apart from this, the livelihoods of fishermen have also been impacted. The sludge keeps getting in their nets, due to which they are not able to catch fishes. The problem has been there for a long time and the number of fishes in that sea area has also reduced leading to an economic crisis for fishermen. There are also indications of water-borne disease outbreaks like cholera.

Government’s stance

The environment minister of Turkey on Sunday has pledged that the country is trying to defeat the plague of “sea snot” that is threatening the Sea of Marmara under a disaster management plan. Environment Minister Murat Kurum highlighted that the government has planned to designate the entire Sea of Marmara as protected area and will reduce pollution as well as improve treatment of waste water that comes from coastal cities and ships, a Reuters report noted.


The government is also calling upon local residents, and NGOs to lend their hand during maritime clean-up operations. Turkey is aiming to reduce nitrogen levels in the sea by 40 per cent. This is expected to restore the sea waters to its previous state.

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