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‘Sea snot’ outbreak in Turkey


  • There has been growing environmental concern in Turkey over the accumulation of ‘sea snot’, a slimy layer of grey or green sludge in the country’s seas, which can cause considerable damage to the marine ecosystem.
  • Turkey’s Sea of Marmara, that connects the Black Sea to the Aegean Sea, has witnessed the largest outbreak of ‘sea snot’ and this sludge has also been spotted in the adjoining Black and Aegean seas.


GS-III: Environment and Ecology (Issues regarding Environmental Pollution, Conservation of Ecology), GS-I: Geography

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is Sea Snot?
  2. What is causing ‘sea snot’ in the seas of Turkey?
  3. How badly can the crisis affect the marine ecosystem?
  4. Sea of Marmara

What is Sea Snot?

  • Sea snot, sea saliva or marine mucilage is a collection of mucus-like organic matter found in the sea.
  • The creamy, gelatinous substance is generally not harmful, but can attract viruses and bacteria, including E. coli, and it can become a blanket that suffocates the marine life below.
  • It is frequently seen in the Mediterranean Sea and has been spreading into farther-flung waters.

What is causing ‘sea snot’ in the seas of Turkey?

  • ‘Sea snot’ is formed when algae are overloaded with nutrients as a result of water pollution combined with the effects of climate change.
  • The nutrient overload occurs when algae feast on warm weather caused by global warming. Water pollution adds to the problem.
  • Environmental experts have said that overproduction of phytoplankton caused by climate change and the uncontrolled dumping of household and industrial waste into the seas has led to the present crisis.
  • Turkey’s President has said dumping of sewage in the sea along with rising temperatures is causing the crisis. He has blamed the outbreak on discharge of untreated water from cities like Istanbul, into the seas.
  • A ‘sea snot’ outbreak was first recorded in the country in 2007. Back then, it was also spotted in the Aegean Sea near Greece. But the current outbreak in the Sea of Marmara is by far the biggest in the country’s history.

How badly can the crisis affect the marine ecosystem?

  • The growth of the mucilage, which floats up on the surface of the sea like a brown phlegm, is posing a severe threat to the marine ecosystem of the country.
  • Divers have said that it has caused mass deaths among the fish population, and also killed other aquatic organisms such as corals and sponges.
  • The mucilage is now covering the surface of the sea and has also spread to 80-100 feet below the surface. If unchecked, this can collapse to the bottom and cover the sea floor, causing major damage to the marine ecosystem.
  • Over a period of time, it could end up poisoning all aquatic life, including fishes, crabs, oysters, mussels and sea stars.
  • Besides aquatic life, the ‘sea snot’ outbreak has also affected the livelihoods of fishermen as the sludge gets collected in their nets, making them so heavy that they break or get lost and the mucilage coating the strings make the nets visible to fish and keep them away.
  • Some experts have also warned that the ‘sea snot’ can cause an outbreak of water-borne diseases such as cholera in cities like Istanbul.

What steps are being taken by Turkey to solve the crisis?

  • Turkish President has said steps will be taken to “save our seas from this mucilage calamity, leading with the Marmara Sea”.
  • He also said Turkey’s biggest maritime clean-up operation is being launched.

Sea of Marmara

  • The Sea of Marmara is the inland sea, entirely within the borders of Turkey, that connects the Black Sea to the Aegean Sea, thus separating Turkey’s Asian and European lands.
  • The Bosphorus strait connects it to the Black Sea and the Dardanelles strait to the Aegean Sea. The Bosphorus strait also separates Istanbul into its Asian and European sides.
  • The surface salinity of the sea averages about 22 parts per thousand, which is slightly greater than that of the Black Sea, but only about two-thirds that of most oceans.

-Source: Indian Express

February 2024