Turkey Dispatches Skimmers and Vacuums to Clean Up "Sea Snot"

Courtesy Prof. Dr. Mehmet Emin Birpinar, Deputy Minister of Environment and Urbanization

Published Jun 14, 2021 12:19 AM by The Maritime Executive

Response teams are working to remove massive quantities of marine mucilage - otherwise known as "sea snot" - from the surface of Turkey's Sea of Marmara, the enclosed body of water between the Aegean and the Bosporus. 

Within the first two days of the cleanup, about 1,000 responders had collected 14,000 cubic feet of the substance at multiple sites, according to Environment and Urban Planning Minister Murat Kurum.

"Our work will eliminate the visual pollution and the smell in the Marmara and help sunlight reach the bottom," said Kurum. "I want to assure the public that we will make the Marmara clean again, with a spirit of mobilization."

The mucilage is a product of an out-of-control algae bloom, and researchers believe it is likely caused by nutrients from agricultural runoff and sewage, as well as elevated water temperatures. Divers have reported a heavy blanket of the sludgy substance on the bottom, raising concerns about its effects on shellfish, corals, crustaceans and fish. 

The solution may involve better water treatment, according to the Istanbul branch of Turkey's Chamber of Environmental Engineers. In a position paper, the organization said that about 70 percent of Istanbul's wastewater is discharged with minimal pretreatment. When combined with climate-related warming, they warned, this heavy nutrient load can produce undesirable levels of algae growth - unless it is controlled by subjecting sewage to advanced biological treatment.