Turkey facing ‘sea snot’ invasion on popular shorelines 

Turkey facing ‘sea snot’ invasion on popular shorelines 
A section of Istanbul waterfront showing sea snot infestation, which has exacerbated over the last six months. (Getty Images)
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Updated 26 May 2021

Turkey facing ‘sea snot’ invasion on popular shorelines 

Turkey facing ‘sea snot’ invasion on popular shorelines 
  • Scientists: ‘Mucus-like’ substance linked to untreated sewage flowing into sea
  • Local diver: Amount contained underwater ‘10-15 times higher’ than on surface

LONDON: Some of Turkey’s most popular shorelines have been struck by a mucus-like substance known as “sea snot,” which scientists have warned is spreading due to climate change. 

Turkey’s sea snot has grown in size over the last six months and could pose a problem to fish and eventually humans, scientists have said.

Its origins lie in phytoplankton that can grow out of control when nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus permeate throughout seawater. The reaction occurs most commonly when nutrient-rich untreated sewage flows into the sea.

“The increase in the number of elements such as nitrogen and phosphorus in the sea is largely related to domestic waste such as sewage,” said Mustafa Sari, maritime faculty dean of Bandirma Onyedi Eylul University.

“Domestic waste released into the sea without treatment increases the nitrogen and phosphorus load of the seawater.” 

Sea snot from the phytoplankton could create hazards for humans because it prevents people from fishing or swimming in affected waters.

“I have been traveling here for 15 years and there used to be snot at some times, but it is worse this year. It is such a dirty sight, and it stinks,” said ship worker Burak Yenilmez.

“Our work has reduced by up to 70 percent,” said local diver Hakan Kara, adding that the amount of the substance contained underwater is “10-15 times higher” than on the surface.

“It is in pieces, but everywhere. The bottom of the sea is completely covered with snot,” he said. “Sea horses, crabs, small fish and any marine creatures living there die because it clogs their gills. We need an urgent solution to this situation.”

Experts say climate change will continue to make the problem worse. “The main trigger is warming related to climate change, as phytoplankton grow during higher temperatures,” said Dr. Neslihan Ozdelice, a marine biologist at Istanbul University.

Countering climate change will require a global effort, she added, warning that Turkey needs to focus on issues such as overfishing and wastewater discharge.

“We are experiencing the visible effects of climate change, and adaptation requires an overhaul of our habitual practices,” said Ozdelice. “We must initiate a full-scale effort to adapt.”