'Sea Snot' Slime 100ft Deep Endangering Marine Life Blamed on Household Waste

Experts in Turkey are demanding action after large blankets of so-called "sea snot" clogged up its coastline, damaging marine life and the country's fishing industry.

The thick, dark foamy substance, real name marine mucilage, occurs when algae is overloaded with nutrients as a result of warm weather and household and water pollution—all of which has increased over the past few decades.

The sludge was first documented in Turkey in 2007, but experts believe this is the largest recorded instance of the slime.

The substance has now covered the shores of the Sea of Marmara, which separates the Asian and European areas of the nation's capital of Istanbul.

"Of course it affects our work," fisherman Mahsum Daga, 42, told the Agence France-Presse news agency.

"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."

Professor Barış Salihoğlu, head of METU's Institute of Maritime Sciences, said the sludge is engulfing the entire water from the surface to the bottom.

"We have seen a gel-like structure spreading across the sea and never encountered such a large mass before," he told Demirören News Agency (DHA) on Friday.

Cevahir Efe Akcelik, an environment engineer and secretary general of the Union of Chambers of Turkish Engineers and Architects, added to AFP: "Studies show the mucilage is not only on the surface now but also goes 25 to 30 metres (80-100ft) deep."

sea snot
The mucilage has been informally referred to as "sea snot" and was first documented in Turkey's waters in 2007. YASIN AKGUL/AFP/Getty Images

Salihoğlu said the increase in pollution and lack of waste treatment is aggravating the situation, resulting in significantly reduced oxygen levels at sea.

"Agricultural waste, industrial waste pouring into the sea from deltas, tributaries particularly worsened it.

"We need to halve the pollution at least. Cleaning the pollution at least by half would return oxygen levels to normal within five to six years. We need patience and also swift measures," he added.

Salihoğlu said local wastewater treatment plants need to be improved in order to prevent further incidents of sea snot, as well as decreasing pollution in nearby rivers.

Istanbul University biology professor, Muharrem Balci also warned that the mucilage is now covering the sea surface "like a tent canvas," which could have a devastating effect on marine life as oxygen is starved and mussels and other sea creatures such as crabs are getting poisoned.

"It will smell like a rotten egg unless this process is halted," Balci told AFP.

Tahsin Ceylan, a local filmmaker who is making a documentary about the sea snot, told Sky News: "The Sea of Marmara's plight is the outcome of what humans did. This is the outcome of household waste and pollution.

"The only thing to do is not to throw your waste into the sea. I think nature does not deserve this."

Dr Mustafa Sarı, the dean of Bandırma Onyedi Eylül University's maritime faculty, who is studying the economic effects of the sea snot, previously said the increase of the mucus is proof that the world needs to adapt to rising sea temperatures.

"We are experiencing the visible effects of climate change, and adaptation requires an overhaul of our habitual practices," he said, reported The Guardian. "We must initiate a full-scale effort to adapt."

sea snot
This aerial photograph taken on June 4, 2021 in Turkey's Marmara Sea at a harbor on the shoreline of Istanbul shows mucilage, a jelly-like layer of slime that develops on the surface of the water due to the excessive proliferation of phytoplankton, gravely threatening the marine biome. YASIN AKGUL/AFP/Getty Images