Sea snot: Greece investigates possible outbreak in Aegean

Turkey has vowed to clear its seas of the same ‘scourge’

Rory Sullivan
Friday 25 June 2021 15:11 BST
A boat sails across the Sea of Marmara which is covered with sea snot on 12 June, 2021.
A boat sails across the Sea of Marmara which is covered with sea snot on 12 June, 2021. (AFP via Getty Images)

Greece is investigating a potential outbreak of “sea snot” in the waters off the island of Lemnos, just weeks after Turkey vowed to clear its seas of the same “scourge”.

Sea snot is thick organic sludge made up of compounds released by marine organisms, which thrives in areas where nutrient-rich sewage flows into the sea.

This organic matter, also known as marine mucilage, can sink below the waves’ surface and can suffocate marine life.

It has recently coated the Sea of Marmara in Turkey, leading officials there to launch an intensive cleaning programme.

Authorities in Lemnos, an Aegean island off the west coast of Turkey, have now reported similar spots on parts of its shore and in the sea off its north, east and west coastline.

Marine bioscientists are examining the outbreak through satellites and drones to establish whether it is linked to the one off Istanbul.

However, Theodosis Dalavitsos, head of Lemnos’s environment service, said the phenomenon occurs annually due to still waters and high temperatures.

“It appears every year and we can’t connect it to (the sea snot) of Marmara,” he added.

To test his theory, samples have been dispatched to a private laboratory in Athens for testing.

Earlier this month, Murat Kurum, the Turkish environment minister, said 43 vessels had been deployed to stop the spread of the mucilage in the Sea of Marmara.

“We are determined to save the Marmara and we will save it,” he promised.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s president, blamed the “scourge” on the release of untreated waste from cities like Istanbul, which borders the body of water.

Experts have said that climate change and pollution are responsible for sea snot, with hydrobiologist Levent Artuz warning that there will be regular outbreaks in Turkey unless sewage discharges stop.

“As long as we carry on with those practises, it does not make much sense to expect different results. We will continue to encounter disasters like this,” he said.

Additional reporting by Reuters

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