Parts of a huge mass of so-called “sea snot,” which has covered a vast area of the Marmara Sea off Istanbul have been recently spotted in northern Greece, a Greek scientist revealed on Monday.
Fishermen in Kavala have noticed the thick, slimy layer of the mucus-like matter, floating off the coast of the town since April,” marine biologist Kalliopi Pagkou told Greek Reporter on Monday.
She said that the disgusting marine phenomenon, which has been observed in the seas of northern Greece, was indeed part of the sea snot from the Marmara Sea, which connects the Black Sea to the Aegean Sea. It had floated through the straits into the north Aegean, damaging not only fishing nets but fish stocks as well.
The sludge collects in their nets, making them so heavy they often break or become lost. The ones that do make it back onto ships are frequently empty as the strings are coated — making them visible to the fish.
Although the “mucilage,” as scientist term it, is not visible right now in Greek seas, “one cannot predict the future and whether another chunk of Istanbul’s slimy layer will not not move westward,” Pagkou says.
An aerial photos made with a drone shows #Marmara sea covered by sea snot in Istanbul, Turkey, 04 June 2021. #seapullotion #GlobalWarming #MarmaraDeniziOElueyor #MarmaraDenizi #denizsalyası @epaphotos pic.twitter.com/dql67WGzo7
— Erdem Şahin (@_erdemsahin) June 4, 2021
The Greek scientist, who is the Research Director at the Greece’s Institute of Oceanography (IO), says that the marine mucilage is a naturally-occurring green sludge that forms when algae is overloaded with nutrients as a result of hot weather and water pollution.
The creamy, gelatinous substance is generally not harmful in and of itself, but can attract viruses and bacteria — including E. coli — and it can become a blanket that suffocates the marine life in the waters below it.
Marmara sea snot is largest such phenomenon in history
The Marmara Sea sludge is believed to be the largest such formation in history and is causing havoc for local communities.
“The sea snot phenomenon is rare, but not unusual,” Pagkou notes. She recalls huge sea snots forming in the Aegean Sea in the ’80s and the Adriatic Sea in the ’90s.
Pagkou told Greek Reporter that the phenomenon is the result of an overproduction of phytoplankton, caused by the dumping of untreated household and industrial waste in the sea and climate change, as higher temperatures assist in the overproduction of the phytoplankton.
“It is a phenomenon which usually appears in shallow seas or enclosed seas, such as Marmara. This time, however, it took gigantic proportions due to human activity,” she explains.
Boats traveling through the Sea of Marmara have to navigate the grey sludge, and some fishermen are being prevented from working as it clogs up their motors and nets.
Divers have reported that large numbers of fish and other species are dying from suffocation.
Over the weekend, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan pledged to save the sea from the snot problem, blaming the outbreak on untreated water from cities, including opposition-run city of Istanbul.
Teams from Turkey’s Environment and Urbanization Ministry on June 6 started work clearing the Sea of Marmara of the disgusting sludge. Efforts began at many locations to fight the mucilage problem by laying barriers on the sea to let the mucilage accumulate at one point, before transferring them to storage tanks to dispose of later.
The Greek scientist says that although the phenomenon is not directly threatening human life, it affects fishing and tourism, and could have disastrous implications for marine life. “As the snot sinks to the bottom of the sea it uses vast amount of oxygen to dissolve. Fish and other sea creatures who live near the bottom will suffer,” Pagkou, from the Institute of Oceanography, explains.
The Institute is considered one of the main providers of oceanographic research in the Eastern Mediterranean, and it is the most comprehensive research institute for the marine environment in Greece, acting in several cases as the official consultant to the Greek government on marine and maritime issues.
In the last 30 years, it has played a leading role in the progress of oceanographic research in the Eastern Mediterranean.