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Grey Blanket of the Marmara

What if we lost the beauty of the sea we love to look at, whether from our windows or just walking by the shore, because of our actions?

Author: Selin (Young Reporter, Turkey)

Have you ever looked at the sea and wondered what is the slimy grey stuff floating on its surface? Well that’s what scientists call a marine mucilage. It is a naturally-occurring phenomenon created by aquatic organisms, especially algae (BBC). However, the recent issue in the Marmara Sea in Turkey indicates that climate change and water pollution can be very essential factors in the formation of marine mucilage (BBC).


Marine mucilage is a natural phenomenon that occurs annually. “In the Adriatic Sea, for instance, marine aggregates generally appear from May to July and evolve into mucilage through the Summer (with a peak in August). Recently (i.e., in 2003, 2006, 2007 and 2008), mucilage has appeared much earlier (first recorded in November/December and January, depending upon the area)” (Danovaro). This early appearance of marine mucilage is thought to be the result of the increasing temperatures and the amount of increased pollution in the sea. The pollution provides more abundant nutrients for the algae and therefore increases the amount of mucilage which prevents the sunlight from coming into the sea, decreasing the oxygen level. The drop in the oxygen level combined with the decreased amount of nutrients inside the sea, causes many organisms like fish to lose their lives. The

sticky mucilage covers not only the surface but the bottom of the sea, which causes damage by covering their body, such as their gills that allow them to breathe. In the Marmara Sea of Turkey, the issue of marine mucilage is becoming serious. As I’m looking through my window, seeing the sea is becoming more of a stressful sight rather than a calming one. Currently many marine creatures have been harmed by the mucilage and it’s becoming a threat for the fishing and tourism industries. The sight of the mucilage is causing people to stay away from anything related to the sea, not wanting to eat the fish which has swam in it or swim in it themselves. Professor Bayram Ozturk, from Turkish Marine Research, has emphasized the issue by saying that "[d]ue to the overgrowth of the mucilage, several species are under threat [including] oysters, mussels, sea stars," (BBC). Immediate action must be taken to prevent further damage. Even though the mucilage has been tried to be removed with nets, this solution is seen to be ineffective. Muharrem Balci, a biology professor at Istanbul University, states that “a lasting solution requires proper marine supervision, as well as biological and chemical disposal systems for the sea’s cities and industrial zones” (Guardian).


With collaboration of the government and the industry, the situation can be reversed. As individuals, we can help by living as sustainably as possible to prevent climate change and pollution from getting worse, therefore, preventing this issue from arising in all the countries. Let’s not forget, the environment is our shared treasure. When it calls for help from one part of the Earth, it is a warning for all of us.



Resources:

● “Turkey President Erdogan Vows to Solve 'Sea Snot' Outbreak.” BBC News, BBC, 6 June 2021, www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-57372677#:~:text=%22Sea%20snot%22%2C%20or%20marin e,the%20Aegean%20Sea%20near%20Greece.

● Danovaro, Roberto, et al. “Climate Change and the Potential Spreading of Marine Mucilage and Microbial Pathogens in the Mediterranean Sea.” PloS One, Public Library of Science, 16 Sept. 2009, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2739426/.

● “'Sea Snot' Covers Turkish Coast, Threatening Fishing Industry.” The Guardian, Guardian News andMedia, 5 June 2021, www.theguardian.com/world/2021/jun/05/sea-snot-covers-turkish-coast-threatening-fishing-indus try.

Image:

● Photo by Yıldırım, Muhammed Enes. “'Sea Snot' on Turkey's Shores Alarms Residents.” Turkey News | Al Jazeera, Al Jazeera, 6 June 2021, www.aljazeera.com/gallery/2021/6/6/sea-snot-on-turkeys-shores-alarms-residents.

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