Top officials in Turkey have vowed to defeat a plague of “sea snot” that has coated a shoreline near Istanbul in a slimy film of beige sludge that reeks.
This outbreak of marine mucilage, the slime’s official but no less gross name, is thought to be the largest in history, Sky News reports. For the past seven months, the bloom has spread across the surface of the Marmara Sea and into the adjoining Black and Aegean Seas, posing a threat to marine life and fishing industries.
“We will save our seas from this mucilage calamity, leading with the Marmara Sea,” said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in a statement, according to the Washington Post. “We must take this step without delay.”
So-called “sea snot” forms when nutrient-rich waters remain stagnant during prolonged periods of heat, causing phytoplankton and other microorganisms to grow out of control. Under conditions of stress, these species discharge a mucusy mixture of protein, carbohydrates, and fat that isn’t harmful on its own but, when concentrated in large quantities, can choke off marine life below and attract viruses and bacteria. While not a new phenomenon, scientists believe that excess nutrients from water pollution and rising temperatures caused by the climate crisis have been making the problem worse.
Erdogan pledged to “clear our seas from the mucilage scourge” and blamed the bloom on untreated sewage being dumped in the sea from major cities like Istanbul, which is home to some 16 million people, according to the Guardian. He also ordered Turkey’s Ministry of Environment and Urbanization to inspect wastewater and solid waste facilities and investigate other potential sources of pollution, the Post reports.
On Sunday, Environment and Urbanization Minister Murat Kurum said the administration plans to designate the entire Marmara Sea as a protected area, reduce pollution, and improve treatment of wastewater from coastal cities and ships, Reuters reports. These measures aim to reduce nitrogen levels in the sea by 40%, a threshold scientists believe would de-snottify the waters enough to restore them to their previous state.
The nation’s biggest maritime clean-up operation to date will start on Tuesday, Kurum continued. He called on residents, artists, and NGOs to contribute to these efforts.
“Hopefully, together we will protect our Marmara within the framework of a disaster management plan,” he said via Reuters. “We will take all the necessary steps within three years and realize the projects that will save not only the present but also the future together.”
Because no one wants a future filled with snotty, smelly seas. As awful as these circumstances are, who knew the secret to getting nations to give a shit about climate change was just grossing them out all along.