Feature: Expanding "sea snot" threatens environment in Turkey's Istanbul

2021-06-04 10:05:50 GMT2021-06-04 18:05:50(Beijing Time) Xinhua English

ISTANBUL, June 4 (Xinhua) -- A mucus-like substance known as "sea snot" has been spreading in the Marmara Sea in Turkey's biggest city Istanbul, as experts blame global warming and pollution.

Istanbul and neighboring towns' inhabitants in northwestern Turkey are calling on authorities to take urgent action against the thick jello-like layer of slime that has been invading their coastline for months.

The substance has also had an economic impact on fishing in the Marmara Sea, situated between the Black and Aegean seas.

Experts defined sea snot as a "viscous fluid or by its scientific name marine mucilage formed by excessive proliferation of microscopic plants called phytoplankton, which enables biological life in the sea."

"Phytoplankton, which thrives in warmer water, is among the actors in the Marmara Sea, where temperatures are several degrees higher than normal due to climate change," Daily Sabah, a local daily, said on its website.

Scientists say that this phenomenon is not new but that this time it has become massive. Pollution, such as raw sewage run-offs from Istanbul and coastal cities, is also to blame.

"The Marmara Sea, which has a unique ecosystem, is an inland sea, and it cannot breathe anymore," Mert Gokalp, a marine biologist, told Xinhua. "The sea is vomiting what people have been dumping in its waters for a very long time."

The scientist, who has been studying the Marmara Sea for many years, explained that the mucilage was a combined result of decades of industrial, agricultural, and human organic pollution, as well as global warming.

Climate change, which led to Turkey's milder-than-usual winters, caused sea temperatures to rise between 2 and 3 degrees Celsius, Gokalp noted.

Istanbul is home to over 16 million people and is the nation's financial, cultural, and touristic hub. Therefore, the marine phenomenon affects the entire country.

The Marmara region is also where 40 percent of Turkey's industry is located.

Istanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu called on the government and all related institutions to urgently work on an "action plan" and solve the problem in the metropolis and surroundings.

Environment and Urban Planning Minister Murat Kurum said his teams have been assessing dozens of points in the sea to find out the source. "An action plan is soon to be announced," he told reporters on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, while authorities promised to address the issue, the situation has become unbearable for Istanbul's residents.

"I have lived in Istanbul for 25 years, and I had never witnessed such an event. It is very distressing to see this," Murat Akinci, a former advertising executive, told Xinhua after a stroll at the seaside in the Bakirkoy district on the European side of the city.

"We as humans are responsible for this mess, and we have to find a way to live more harmoniously with nature. Otherwise, the city will be unlivable very soon at this pace," he said.

He also added that it has become impossible to eat seafood from the Marmara Sea since the mucilage began at least three months ago.

Thousands of fish have been found dead in some coastal towns, and severe coral mortality has been witnessed by scuba divers, according to press reports.

For Gokalp, there is no other solution to this grave problem other than to rethink how nearly 30 million people can live on the Marmara Sea coastline, that is, while respecting the sea and not treating it as a giant dumpster.

"There is no time to lose. Sewage systems should be immediately modernized, so as only recycled material may be released into the sea," Gokalp said.

"Otherwise, people will soon begin leaving this region, which has been a cradle of civilization for 12,000 years," he warned. Enditem