'Sea snot' outbreak off Turkish coast poses threat to marine life and fishing industry

Scientists say climate change and pollution have contributed to the build-up of the organic matter, known as marine mucilage. PHOTO: AFP

ISTANBUL (REUTERS) - A thick, slimy layer of so-called "sea snot" is spreading in Turkey's Sea of Marmara to the south of Istanbul, posing a threat to marine life and the fishing industry.

Scientists say climate change and pollution have contributed to the proliferation of the organic matter, also known as marine mucilage, which contains a wide variety of microorganisms and can flourish when nutrient-rich sewage flows into seawater.

Drone footage shot over the Sea of Marmara shows ferries and cargo ships criss-crossing harbours and seawater blanketed with the viscous, greyish substance that can suffocate marine life.

"The Sea of Marmara's plight is the outcome of what humans did. This is the outcome of household waste and pollution," said film-maker Tahsin Ceylan, who is making a documentary about the impact of the sea snot.

"The only thing to do is not to throw your waste into the sea," he said. "I think nature does not deserve this."

Experts linked the increasing amount of sea snot to high sea temperatures stemming from climate change, as well as the discharge of untreated sewage into the sea.

Environment Minister Murat Kurum said the sea snot was a serious problem and a 300-strong team was assessing dozens of points in the Sea of Marmara, as well as water treatment facilities and sources of pollution.

He said the government would bring together all concerned parties on Friday (June 4) and announce an action plan to protect the sea on Sunday.

Hydrobiologist Levent Artuz warned that such ecological problems will continue unless there is a change in people's behaviour.

"As long as we carry on with those practices, it does not make much sense to expect different results. We will continue to encounter disasters like this," he said, pointing to the increased discharge of sewage into the waters in recent years.

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