Sea Snot: Maritime Shock in the Sea of Marmara

Global warming was imagined to become worst in the form of bigger wildfires and rising seas, but it’s emerging out as a shallow sludge that is marbling the water around the boats in Marmara. It’s nothing but marine mucilage that the world calls as “sea snot” in the Sea of Marmara. In certain areas it was thick and buoyant reflecting as fiberglass insulation.

(Daily sabah)

The surface being coated with bubbles full of foams as well as viscous puddles and it was littered with balloons, bread crusts and food containers. 

The unearthly and unavoidable presence of these sea snots resulted in closing down the beaches and dominated conversations.

Marmara, a historic Turkish island in the Sea of Marmara, connecting the Black Sea with Aegean via the Bosporus and Dardanelles straits have shores rimmed with ports, piers, factories, wooden boats with fishermen and anchovies. But the past few decades have witnessed the commercial extinction of marine species such as bluefin tuna and swordfish. Many other populations of fishes have seen a huge decline and jelly fishes have mobbed the coastline, all thanks to the symptoms of the ailing ecosystem.

Like most of the other seas, the mean surface temperature of the Marmara is seeing a rise in temperature by 2 to 2.5 degree celsius which is nearly 1.5 degree celsius more than the world’s average, thus proving as a lead indicator for seas around the world. 

 The Sea of Marmara has entered into a state of maritime shock, the reason being the intense warming coupled with decades of abuse from pollution and overfishing. By the end of 2020, it saw an increased concentration of phosphorus and nitrogen resulting in a boom of phytoplankton, (single celled sea organisms). Not only this, Marmara’s warming surface temperature resulted into its waters to stratify, causing the currents to slow down that generally helps disrupting the algal growth. 

As an outcome of this, the phytoplankton started running out of nutrients. This eventually caused the cells of a number of species to exude a substance that was sticky in nature. The minute these cells died, they underwent a collision, stuck together and aggregated into globs that hovered into the warmest layer of the stratified water. As time passed, and the exposure these globs got, they transformed into a submerged mat of mucus that went on trapping everything around it. Be it bacteria, debris, dead and decaying organic matter, dead cells of fish larvae, etc. now, these bacteria started replicating and went on adding to the mat’s mass. 

This mat mass is being confused by the fishermen into the seas with fishes, which weighs down with the same weight. The nets are hard to pull up and instead of fishes and other marine species, it’s loaded with dark slippery goo. The mucilage was not only responsible for clogging the nets but also the boat’s motor.

The mucilage is also affecting the economy. Despite the local traders around the shores seen holding plasters stating that the seafood from the Marmara Sea was safe to eat, the local population has become wary of consuming. Resulting into reduced demand of sea food from Maramara sea.  It was reported that the costs of sea food have reduced five folds. The matter got worse when the stories of the outbreak went viral, there was a decline in fish sales around the city of Marmara by nearly 70 percent. Ultimately, the equipment issues worsened, and the fishermen were forced to end their season early. 

As the mucilage started drifting below the surface water, it started rotting, giving a beginning to a nasty metamorphosis. The decay was spurred with micro-organisms which multiplied consuming the mucus and ruptured the dead alga’s causing them to release more mucus and gas. The inflation of this gas from the mucilage began to rise and came out of the surface of Marmara making its grand entry to the public eyes. The smell of the gas resembled with the smell of rotten eggs. Along with this, the bacteria in the mucilage degraded, that released gas which was enough to inflate bubbles, ballooning the mucilage into conglomerates that scientists commonly called as “clouds”. 


As a mitigation effect for the sea-snot saga, the Turkish government has designated the Sea of Marmara as a special environmental protection zone. The current status requires a more strict review process and tighter factory inspections with heavier fines. In addition to this, the percentage of biologically treated water that flows into the Marmara Sea should be increased from 46 to 100 percent in the coming two to three years. But as long as humans continue to polluting and heating the sea, the marine ecosystems will continue to become more delicate and probably less predictable. Each and every outbreak like this shows us the consequences of our own actions, but only if we choose to see them.