Turkey’s Challenging ‘Sea Snot’

The sea of Maramara, which lies within Turkey and separates Istanbul between Europe and Asia, is festered with a new challenge- sea snot. The sludge has also been seen in the adjoining Black Sea and Greece’s Aegean Sea, which are connected by the Sea of Marmara.

The huge mass of organic matter has taken over the water body, disturbing the aquatic ecosystem and local communities. The crisis has been triggered by global warming and increasing pollutants.

Amid growing concerns over the accumulation of the slimy green sludge, Turkey has vowed to save its shores from new development building up in its waters.

Sea-snot was first found in Turkey in 2007. However, the recent outbreak is the biggest in its history.

What is Sea Snot?

  • Sea snot is a thick, slimy grey-brown sheet known as marine mucilage that is formed by dead and living organic material. The sludge forms when algae overloaded with nutrients fests on warm weather due to climate change.
  • It is to be noted that algae are the prime source of maintaining oxygen concentration in water bodies, however, if their growth is overlooked, they could lead to the formation of this mucilage that could block sunlight from entering the deep waters.
  • Marine mucilage, also called sea snot, “is essentially a mass of microorganisms enriched by components of excessive nutrients from untreated waste discharged into the sea.
  • In addition to coating surfaces, the sludge blocks sunlight and depletes oxygen from the water
  • Normally, sea snot is not a problem, but when phytoplankton grow out of control, the goop can overpower marine ecosystems. This can wreak ecological havoc, since the substance can harbor bacteria like E Coli and ensnare or suffocate marine life. Eventually, the snot sinks to the sea floor, where it can blanket coral and suffocate them, too.

    Since phytoplankton thrive in warm water, scientists suspect that climate change is fueling the new sea-snot crisis. Runoff from nitrogen- and phosphorous-rich fertilizer and sewage could also be causing an explosion in the phytoplankton population.

  • Divers have said they have seen large numbers of fish and other species, such as mussels and oysters, dying from suffocation.Fishermen said the mucilage fouls their boat motors and nets.
  • Marine researchers have also found the slime covering corals 100 feet deep.

Why the heightened focus?

The Sea of Marmara connects the Black Sea to the Aegean Sea, which is an important trade route for the region. At the moment boats have to negotiate through the thick sludge in the Marmara, however, if it spreads rampantly to the Black Sea it could create a global problem.

Solutions to Tackle ‘Sea Snot’:

Short-term countermeasures include collecting it from the sea surface and laying barriers on the sea surface.Long-term countermeasures include improving wastewater treatment, creating marine protected areas, and limiting climate change.

Turkey’s Environment Minister Murat Kurum announced plans to fight the outbreak, including designating the Sea of Marmara a protected area, reducing pollution and improving wastewater treatment, according to Reuters. He also said Turkey plans to cut nitrogen levels in the sea by 40%.

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