Sea snot choking Turkey’s waters could be a warning to the world

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Istanbul – The Sea of ​​Marmara in Turkey is dying. Balls of feather dough literally choke life out of the water. Scientists claim that rising sea temperatures and untreated sewage dumped into the sea have combined to create the ideal conditions for phytoplankton to thrive. Now he thrives at the expense of everything else.

At normal levels, the microscopic plant is essential in providing oxygen to marine life. But when it grows to the extreme levels seen in Marmara now, it collects in a thick layer of mud known as mucilage, or, more descriptively, sea ​​snot.

The snot suffocates everything else down to the coral, which it covers and slowly suffocates to death.

White layer formed over the sea on the Anatolian side of Istanbul
Aerial view of the “sea snot” near the Maltepe, Kadikoy and Adalar districts in Istanbul, Turkey, on May 02, 2021.

Lokman Akkaya / Anadolu Agency / Getty


Professor Bayram Ozturk, director of the Turkish Marine Research Foundation, has been studying the Sea of ​​Marmara for years and told CBS News he’s never seen anything like it.

“Never, never. It’s a real environmental disaster,” he said.

Sea snot kills a large number of species in the Marmara by cutting off nutrients in the water.

The alien-looking substance has taken over Istanbul’s famous coastline, creating a slimy, gooey layer on the water’s surface, blocking sunlight and oxygen for fish and plants below.

Authorities have worked for weeks to clean it up, but their solution is purely cosmetic – scraping the snot out of the water does nothing to get to the roots of the problem.

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An aerial photograph taken on June 4, 2021 in Turkey’s Marmara Sea in a coastal port of Istanbul shows “sea snot” or mucilage, a layer of jelly-like silt that grows on the surface of water due to an excessive proliferation of phytoplankton, seriously threatening the marine biome.

YASIN AKGUL / AFP / Getty


About 25 million people live around the Marmara. After decades of indiscriminate pollution, the dire consequences are surfacing.

Oceanographer Mustafa Yucel, who studied at the University of Delaware, is leading an expedition to measure oxygen levels in the Sea of ​​Marmara.

His team “will try to reconstruct the history of pollution”, and their findings could help prevent future epidemics.

In the past, epidemics of sea glanders have occurred in the Adriatic Sea, on a smaller scale, and have been brought under control through strict pollution management. But the extent of snot choking on the Marmara is the largest on record, and it could serve as a warning to the world.

“For example, in the United States, [the] Chesapeake Bay, Gulf of Mexico, they’re all like [the] Marmara Sea – they’re overloaded, ”Yucel said.

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An aerial photograph taken on June 6, 2021 in the Sea of ​​Marmara in Turkey in a coastal port of Istanbul shows “sea snot” or mucilage, a layer of jelly-like silt that grows on the surface of the sea. water due to the excessive proliferation of phytoplankton, seriously threatening the marine biome.

YASIN AKGUL / AFP / Getty


There is no quick fix to the problem, and experts warn that urgent action must be taken to reduce local pollution and global climate change fueling the growth of mucilage.

“If we reduce pollution by around 40% – this is a huge amount – the system can only start to recover after such a reduction,” he said of the problem along the Turkish coast. . “It would take at least 5 to 6 years to get the Sea of ​​Marmara out of this coma situation.”

The Turkish government has drawn up an emergency action plan, which includes the imposition of fines on big polluters. But activists say they want to see more commitment to saving the country’s seas, before it’s too late.


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