The Sunday Telegraph

Turkey starts to vacuum up ‘sea snot’ plaguing its coastline

- By Campbell MacDiarmid

TURKEY launched the biggest maritime cleanup operation in its history last week to tackle an unpreceden­ted bloom of marine mucilage in the Sea of Marmara that experts say is an unsightly symptom of a much larger environmen­tal problem.

In recent weeks “sea snot” has blanketed much of the shoreline around Istanbul in the waterway between the Aegean and the Black Sea. Underneath the waves curtains of the sludge hang in sheets, with the blooms depleting oxygen levels in the ocean, choking aquatic life and threatenin­g Turkey’s fishing industry.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan promised to designate the Sea of Marmara a conservati­on area last week, vowing to save Istanbul’s shorelines from “the mucilage calamity”.

“We must act without delay,” he said, as officials dispatched a fleet of surface cleaning boats and an army of workers equipped with trucks with vacuum hoses to suck up the worst of the scum along the shoreline.

The algal bloom first appeared in Turkish waters in 2007 but this year’s outbreak is the worst on record, experts say. The floating organic matter is secreted by a booming phytoplank­ton population, whose out-of-control growth has been fuelled by a nutrientri­ch cocktail of raw sewage, agricultur­al run-off and other pollution, according to an academic committee formed by Turkey’s Higher Education Council.

While overfishin­g, ocean acidificat­ion and the impact of invasive species are other interrelat­ed factors, the experts believe that warmer waters associated with climate change are turbocharg­ing the bloom.

“The impact of rising sea temperatur­es due to climate change also plays an important role,” said Mr Erdoğan.

According to researcher­s at the

Institute of Marine Sciences at Turkey’s Middle East Technical University, the temperatur­e of the Sea of Marmara has increased by an average of 2 to 2.5 degrees over the past two decades.

Between the immediate cleanup efforts and the long-term effects of climate change, Turkey is looking at solutions to improve water treatment and wants to reduce nitrogen levels in the sea by 40 per cent. Environmen­tal protection has failed to keep pace as the population of Istanbul has increased, with about 20million people now living around the Sea of Marmara. Meanwhile the mucilage has began to infiltrate the adjoining Aegean and Black seas.

 ??  ?? Rowers in the Sea of Marmara pass through a layer of the algal sludge that is choking aquatic life. Rising temperatur­es and pollutants are increasing the amount of phytoplank­ton
Rowers in the Sea of Marmara pass through a layer of the algal sludge that is choking aquatic life. Rising temperatur­es and pollutants are increasing the amount of phytoplank­ton

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