Turkey, Environment

World record holder Turkish diver urges action to clear seas of mucilage

Multiple world-record holder Ercumen says everyone should do their part to raise environmental awareness at national level

Betul Yuruk   | 21.06.2021
World record holder Turkish diver urges action to clear seas of mucilage

NEW YORK

Sahika Ercumen, Turkey's multiple world record holder and legendary free diver, wants to immediately clear the mucilage from seas she considers her home.

"Unlike most of you, I have a living space, a home, and an office under the water. I feel the same way you would if you came home one day and discovered mucilage all over your living room, bedroom, and kitchen. Now, I want to clean and restore it immediately," Ercumen told Anadolu Agency.

Saying that she is not "shocked" by the mucilage or sea snot problem in the Marmara Sea, she underlined that the wastes seen on the water surface are a small portion of the marine wastes and that 70% of the marine litter is found on the seafloor.

Mucilage is an overgrowth of microscopic algae called phytoplankton and is caused by rising seawater temperatures due to global warming, stagnant water, and pollution.

The problem, which was first reported in recent years in 1997 in the Dardanelles and the Marmara Sea, resurfaced in 2007-2008 in a big way and for a long time.

This year it 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.

In recent years, she has encountered more plastic and more marine litter on each dive, Ercumen, the World Record Holder Free Diver who has recently been UNDP Turkey's Life Below Water Advocate for a full year, said.

Ercumen impressively highlighted not only the fascinating views of the ecology deep beneath the blue seas but also the contemporary problems generated by mankind, such as plastic pollution and mucilage, which pose a serious threat to life below water.

"We are now seeing the effects of our mistakes from years ago. We cannot expect rapid changes on our 4.5 billion-year-old planet, but I see an increase in waste underwater each passing day."

Raise awareness at national level

Pointing out that the mucilage problem has recently brought to light issues concerning climate change, waste management, and the environment, she said: "Is there anyone in the Marmara Region who can easily eat fish, dare to relax in the sea, and bask in the sun during the summer, and not be concerned about their children playing on the seashore?

This planet is ours, and we are shaping it in the Human Age, for better or for worse. We must protect ecosystems, manage them sustainably, and act boldly and quickly to restore them."

Noting that individuals can also take action on the environment and explain the changes they have made in their lives to those around them, the diver gave some suggestions such as reducing plastic usage, participating in beach cleaning, and buying second-hand clothes.

Ercumen, who broke the women's world record for cave diving without an oxygen tank in Gilindire Cave in the southern Turkish province of Mersin on October 28, 2019, has taken part in numerous activities to raise awareness about sea protection.

She dived in the Bosphorus to raise awareness about rising sea pollution during the COVID-19 pandemic and in the historical sunken city of Halfeti as part of UNDP Turkey's Syria Crisis Response and Resilience Program's "Zero Waste Project."

"Governments and business world should integrate climate change measures into their annual policies, strategies, and plans. Everyone should do their part to raise awareness at the national level," she opined.

Emphasizing the importance of conscious consumption as a consumer society, she said: "If we do not make conscious consumption, we will have prepared the end of our planet."

On June 6, Turkish authorities announced a 22-point action plan to clear a surge of mucilage covering parts of the Sea of Marmara in the country's northwest.

*Writing by Seda Sevencan in Istanbul

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