‘Sea Snot’ found on Turkey’s Coastal Waters

Turkey’s Sea life is being threatened by a layer of slimy brown foam on the ocean’s surface. The foam, which many people are calling “sea snot”, is natural, but it’s triggered by pollution and global warming.

The actual name for the foam is mucilage. Scientists first noticed and described mucilage in 2007, when it was found near Turkey. At that time, it was also found in other parts of the Aegean Sea, near Greece. Mucilage covers the ocean’s surface with a thick, slimy layer that gives it the nickname of sea snot.
This year’s outbreak of mucilage is the worst ever recorded. It’s been developing for seven months and is now covering large parts of the Sea of Marmara. The Sea of Marmara is an “inland sea”, surrounded by land belonging to Turkey, and connected to the Aegean Sea and the Black Sea.

Mucilage is caused by rapidly growing algae. There are many different kinds of algae, and it’s natural and normal for algae to grow in the ocean or in other bodies of water.

But when there is lots of food for the algae, and other conditions are just right, there can be an algae “bloom”, which results in algae growing quickly and in such huge numbers that it affects sea life in the surrounding ocean.

There are two main causes for the current outbreak of sea snot. One is the heavy pollution – sewage, fertilizers, and other chemicals – flowing into the Sea of Marmara. The second cause is higher water temperatures because of climate change.

The sea snot causes problems in lots of different ways. For one thing, by covering the ocean’s surface, it blocks sunlight from reaching all the sea life below. “This mucilage is now covering the sea surface like a tent canvas,” says Muharrem Balci, who teaches biology at Istanbul University.
Because there is so much algae, it takes up lots of oxygen from the seawater. That means that there’s very little oxygen left for the other sea creatures that depend on it. The BBC reports that divers in the area are seeing large numbers of dying fish.

After a while, the sea snot falls to the bottom of the ocean, where it covers the sea floor, threatening to poison creatures that live there, like crabs and mussels. This year, sea snot has been found as deep as 100 feet (30 meters) below the surface.

Mahsum Daga, a local fisherman, told the Guardian, “You know what it does to shellfish? When they open up, it prevents them from closing up again because it gets in the way. All the sea snails here are dead.”

Turkey’s president, Tayyip Erdogan, says that his country will take action to “clear our seas”, adding, “We must take this step without delay.”
The government is making efforts to remove the mucilage from the water’s surface. It’s also sending 300 people to track down sources of pollution. But the problem won’t be solved quickly. Turkey’s environment minister says the country hopes to take care of the problem within three years.

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