Common sense is key for solving marine mucilage problem: NGOs

Sea of Marmara struggling with thick, slimy substance that has intensely emerged this year due to multiple factors

Burak Bir   | 17.06.2021
Common sense is key for solving marine mucilage problem: NGOs A drone photo shows an aerial view of mucilage, also known as sea snot, covering the surface of sea shores including Kadikoy, Kurbagalidere, Caddebostan shore, Bostanci shore at Anatolian side in Istanbul, Turkey on June 07, 2021. ( Yunus Emre Günaydın - Anadolu Agency )


Drawing attention to the key role played by the seas in contributing to a sustainable and healthy life, environmental NGOs in Turkey called for "common sense" to resolve the mucilage problem in the Sea of Marmara.

Environmental organizations in Turkey spoke to Anadolu Agency on the issue as well as their demands and expectations from authorities to solve it.

Ayse Oruc, marine and wildlife program manager at the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Turkey, said the ecological and economic damage arising from the spread of the mucilage is increasing every day.

"The continuation of mucilage (problem) is a serious issue for marine biodiversity. At the same time, mucilage causes serious economic losses, especially in the fishing, tourism and maritime sectors," she said, adding the thick substance not only reduces the oxygen level in the sea but also prevents the entry of light, which ensures the continuation of life.

The mucilage problem is not something that surfaced overnight, Oruc said, but it is a burden that has emerged as a result of multiple problems that scientists have been talking about for many years.

"Scientific studies carried out for many years in the Sea of Marmara reveal that the water temperature of the Sea of Marmara has increased the excess of organic matter inflows, the treatment plants are not working at full capacity, and mega projects have caused damage to the marine ecosystem," she added.

Stressing the importance of "common sense," which brings the Environment Ministry officials, scientists, related authorities and NGOs together to resolve the mucilage issue, Oruc said that the wipeout of polluters that reach the Sea of Marmara and increasing the penalties at a deterrent level are also crucial as well as collecting “sea snot” from the surface.

She suggested that protected areas should be increased to allow the Sea of Marmara to breath and also called for financial support for professionals affected by mucilage such as fishers and tourism workers.

Last but not least she underscored the importance of protecting biodiversity and concluded that it is still possible to save and restore the Sea of Marmara under an action plan that will take urgent and strict measures.

Mucilage problem shows need for urgent action for seas

Nihan Temiz Atas, biodiversity projects lead at Greenpeace Turkey, said that seas, which host countless creatures and provide oxygen, are vulnerable to destructive human activities such as the climate crisis, overfishing, waste pollution, and coastal construction.

"The risk of mucilage, which started in the Sea of Marmara and affected the Aegean Sea and Black Sea due to various reasons such as the discharge of industrial waste and domestic waste for years, showed us that we need to take urgent measures for our seas," she asserted.

She argued that measures must provide long-term solutions not only for the mucilage issue but also against all dangers that seas are facing today.

"In the midst of the climate crisis, if we want to leave a country surrounded on three sides by the seas for future generations, we need an action plan that includes all stakeholders in light of science," Atas added.

The Turkish Marine Environment Protection Association (TURMEPA) shared its report with Anadolu Agency, which was recently prepared on the mucilage issue and sent to the Environment Ministry.

The report, which contains short- and long-term solution recommendations for the authorities, indicates that increases in sea water temperatures due to climate change, stagnant and closed marine environments and marine pollution, and an increase in the amount of organic waste are key reasons behind the intense mucilage coverage.

TURMEPA recommended cleaning mucilage from the sea surface, scientific monitoring and measurement, reviewing the adequacy of wastewater treatment systems and stopping deep-sea discharges in closed and stagnant seas as short-term solutions.

For the long-term roadmap, the organization recommended preventing problems at the source, inter-institutional cooperation and legislation revisions as well as an action plan.

This year, mucilage or “sea snot” was detected in January and then intensified and expanded in April, resulting in a serious problem contrary to previous examples, which usually disappeared in a month or 45 days.

As it continued to increase in its intensity in May and June, the Turkish authorities announced a comprehensive action plan to clean up the Sea of Marmara.

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