Turkey, sea snot in the Sea of Marmara

Turkey begins the largest mobilisation in its history to clean the sea

Turkey has launched the cleanup of the sea snot that covers the Sea of Marmara. It will take at least 3 years to clean the Marmara.

Turkey has launched the “largest and most complete mobilisation to clean the sea” in its history with the aim of saving the Sea of ​​Marmara from the plague caused by the proliferation of the so-called sea snot (or marine mucilage), which threatens the economy of the cities of this region – the most populated in Turkey – and marine life, as announced by the Minister of Environment and Urban Planning, Murat Kurum.

During an act to stage the start of the cleaning campaign on the Caddebostan beach, on the Asian coast of Istanbul, Kurum explained that the main objective of the plan is to “eliminate the problem of mucilage that threatens our fishing, all the creatures of the sea, and  ”. “We are going to save our Sea of ​​Marmara, we will not abandon it to its fate,” said the minister.

Several teams began work yesterday on the coast of the Asian district of Kadıköy to combat the mucilage, which has covered the coasts of this part of Istanbul since February, placing a barrier in the sea to accumulate the sea snot and later extract it and store it in various deposits on land.

The 7 largest cities on the Marmara coast – including Istanbul – and other smaller municipalities are participating in efforts to clean up the mucilage, said the minister, who also announced that a project is being studied to declare the entire Sea of ​​Marmara as a protected zone, and that it will be presented to Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan for approval.

Global warming and sea pollution, main causes

Mucilage or sea snot is a whitish, dense and gelatinous mass that accumulates in the sea, formed by living and dead organic matter composed mainly of phytoplankton but also of viruses, bacteria and other microorganisms, whose appearance has grown exponentially in recent years in the Mediterranean.

This viscous substance hinders the movement of ships and ends up also falling to the seabed, accumulating and suffocating and killing all life. Scientists attribute this phenomenon to the increase in sea temperature due to global warming and marine pollution.

Scientists in Turkey have collected samples from about a hundred points throughout the Sea of ​​Marmara to analyse this substance and create a high-resolution digital twin of the sea; several studies are also being carried out to convert the mucilage into a useful product for its exploitation, highlighting the efforts of the Technical University of Bursa, which analyses its use in agriculture thanks to the properties of sea snot as a fertiliser, and even as a natural pesticide.

The phenomenon begins to spread to the Black Sea

However, there is concern about the proliferation of the phenomenon, which has been observed since the beginning of the century in the Mediterranean but has reached levels never seen this year in the Marmara; now, mucilage has also been detected in the Black Sea – another inland sea, such as the Marmara – first at Samsun, and more recently off the coast of Ordu.

Although for now its spread in the Black Sea is much more limited than in the Marmara, experts warn that the phenomenon could reach similar levels in just a few years if measures are not taken now. Both seas, due to their characteristics, are much more vulnerable to the impact of industrial and urban wastewater, and scientists estimate that in “3 to 5 years” the Black Sea could suffer a plague of marine snot similar to that suffered now by the Marmara.

3 years to recover the Sea of ​​Marmara

The ambitious clean-up plan now launched by the government, which encompasses several ministries with the collaboration of institutions and NGOs, also includes the creation of a scientific and technical advisory council to monitor the situation in the Marmara; furthermore, all the treatment plants that discharge their waters into this sea will be converted into advanced facilities for biological wastewater treatment.

In this way, authorities want to ensure that all wastewater discharged into the Marmara from industry, cities or agriculture does not reach the sea without first undergoing advanced biological treatment; currently, 53% of the wastewater discharged into the Marmara only undergoes preliminary treatment, 42% undergoes advanced biological treatment, and another 5% undergoes standard biological treatment, according to the minister.

“According to our scientists, if we reduce the amount of nitrogen (dumped into the sea) by 40%, we will have solved the root of this problem. In the next 3 years, all the provinces bathed by the Marmara will have completed their work to convert the wastewater treatment plants,” said Kurum. Those 3 years are what the government of Turkey estimates it will take to complete the cleaning of the sea snot that covers the Sea of ​​Marmara and revert the sea to its previous state.