Mucilage, which has been covering the Marmara coasts for the last few months with the increase of global warming, overfishing and pollution and known as sea saliva among the people, has been brought to the agenda of the international press. The report by The Washington Post of the USA stated that fishermen could not catch fish for months, and sea saliva reached 30 meters below the water surface, causing the death of thousands of fish, corals and snails. Scientists have stated that mucilage is not a new phenomenon, but has called for action, warning that the increase in its incidence in recent years is alarming.
According to The Washington Post, fishermen in the Marmara Sea have been facing a problem for months: They cannot catch fish. The reason for this is that a thick, sticky substance known colloquially as “sea saliva” floats on the surface of the water and clogs their nets and raises doubts about whether the fish in the inland sea are really safe to eat.
Scientists say mucilage is not a new phenomenon, but rising water temperatures caused by global warming make the situation worse. In this case, many human activity factors have an impact, including environmental pollution, agricultural and untreated sewage flow.
High levels of nitrogen and phosphorus in the Sea of Marmara, located between the Black Sea and the Aegean Sea, have led to an explosion in phytoplankton populations that secrete “sea saliva”, as previously reported by numerous Turkish news organizations and the British daily The Guardian.
However, mucilage itself is not necessarily harmful, but it creates concern that it creates an environment that will host toxic microorganisms and dangerous bacteria such as E. coli. It is also stated that when it forms a layer that covers the surface of the water, it can cause mass fish deaths as oxygen levels will be lowered under the sea.
However, last April marine biologists discovered that saliva covered corals about 30 meters below the Sea of Marmara, and since then thousands of fish have been found dead in some coastal towns.
In recent weeks, as the Istanbul coastline has become increasingly like a beige carpet, it has become harder to ignore the problem, but fishermen who rely on the sea for their livelihood have been in trouble for months.
One of these fishermen said that he had been out of business since January, rendering his saliva nets useless. A diver who hunts sea snails for a living stated that he lost most of his income due to poor visibility underwater and that crabs and seahorses died as the slimy layer blocked his gills.
On the other hand, Özgür Baytut, who teaches hydrobiology at Ondokuz Mayıs University, stated that although it was first seen in Turkey in 2007, sea saliva appeared periodically in the Mediterranean since the 18th century, and that the “abnormal” situation is the prevalence of the coasts of Turkey told.
Because phytoplankton thrives in warmer waters, scientists suspect climate change may be a factor. Last winter was warmer than normal, so the Sea of Marmara remained a few degrees warmer than average. Mustafa Sarı, a professor at Bandırma Onyedi Eylül University, said that huge and sticky mucus clusters are “a situation where climate change becomes visible”.
On the other hand, officials in Istanbul announced earlier this month that they are collaborating with the government and Bandırma Onyedi Eylül University to find a solution to the crisis and want ships to dredge the seafloor. In Izmit, workers laboriously collected more than 110 tons of saliva and sent it to an incinerator for disposal.
On the other hand, there are concerns that unsightly and bad smelling sea saliva may deter tourists. Columnist İsmet Çiğit complained that people “betrayed the most beautiful sea in the world” by allowing chemical storage facilities, fuel tanks, factories and other industrial sites to be built along the coast. Çiğit said, “It is clear that there is no deterrent penalty for those who pollute the sea. Marmara is dying.”
Experts also pointed out that untreated waste and agricultural runoff are dumped directly into the Marmara Sea, and reducing these sources of pollution will help lower nitrogen and phosphorus levels. He also noted that overfishing could also play a large role in the problem, as it lowers the natural predators of phytoplankton.