Turkey plans to declare Marmara Sea protected area in the face of 'sea snot' outbreak

Turkish Environment Minister Murat Kurum said on June 8 that the country will declare the entire Marmara Sea a protected area by the end of 2021, as authorities launched a program to combat the "sea snot" outbreak.

This aerial photo shows 'sea snot', also known as marine mucilage, at an Istanbul harbor.

Duvar English - Reuters 

Turkey vowed to save the Marmara Sea on June 8 by launching a disaster management program meant to clean up a slimy "sea snot" outbreak threatening marine life and the fishing industry.

The thick layer of organic matter, known as marine mucilage, has spread through the sea south of Istanbul covering harbors, shorelines and swathes of the surface. Some has sunk below the waves, suffocating seabed life.

Environment Minister Murat Kurum said 25 sea surface-cleaning and barrier-laying boats, as well as 18 other vessels, were working to prevent the spread of the mucilage. Illegal fishing and "ghost" nets would be halted and Turkey would declare Marmara a protected area by the end of 2021, he said.

"We will present this to the approval of our President. We will save the Marmara Sea and will not abandon it to its fate," Kurum said. 

"We are starting our cleaning efforts both on land and at sea at 15 points today," he said. 

Some 1,000 workers would bring the waste to shore and truck it to municipal facilities, the minister said. 

Scientists say climate change and pollution have contributed to the proliferation of the substance, which contains a wide variety of microorganisms and can flourish when nutrient-rich sewage flows into seawater.

Residents welcomed the clean-up, but complained about what they called years of uncontrolled pollution in the sea.

"Of course, this sea snot is something that is caused over a few years. Formed by our years-long unawareness, the harmful substances thrown into the sea caused a vomiting in the seabed and when there was no current, it stayed there," said Kadir Saydam, a 65-year old pharmacist.

"Having the cleaning efforts is good visually," he added.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has blamed the plague on untreated water from cities including Istanbul, home to some 16 million people, and vowed to "clear our seas from the mucilage scourge."