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Sea-surface-cleaning vessels and barrier-laying boats of Istanbul Municipality clean up sea snot, a thick slimy layer of the organic matter also known as marine mucilage, spreading through the Sea of Marmara and posing a threat to marine life and the fishing industry, in Istanbul on June 15.

UMIT BEKTAS/Reuters

Environmental scientists in Greece are looking into whether a slimy layer of so-called “sea snot” around the Aegean island of Lemnos is connected to a similar, weeks-long outbreak threatening marine life in Turkey.

Authorities on Lemnos, which has about 30 sandy beaches, have reported mucous spots on parts of its coast line and in the sea to the north, east and west of the island.

Greece’s Environment Ministry has tapped experts on oceanography and marine biosciences monitoring the phenomenon via satellites and drones “to determine if and to what extent the phenomenon in the sea of Lemnos is linked with the planktonic mucous intensely evident in the Sea of Marmara”.

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The experts are using the Sentinel-2 satellite of the European Union’s Copernicus programme and will also rely on visual input from drones, the ministry said.

Scientists say climate change and pollution have contributed to the proliferation of the organic matter, also known as marine mucilage, which contains a wide variety of microorganisms and can flourish when nutrient-rich sewage flows into seawater.

Drone footage shot over the Sea of Marmara has shown ferries and cargo ships criss-crossing harbours and seawater blanketed with the viscous, greyish substance that can suffocate marine life.

HEAT

A Greek coast guard official told Reuters spots of mucilage were visible at some of the island’s beaches. Local authorities have sent samples to the state chemistry lab for analysis and are awaiting the results.

“Heat in the last days may have led to an overproduction of phytoplankton but we must wait for the results,” the official said.

Theodosis Dalavitsos, head of Lemnos’s environment service, said the slimy layers were phytoplankton that tend to appear every year due to the stillness of sea waters and high temperatures.

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

The service sent samples of sea water from different spots of the island to a private laboratory in Athens but oceanology experts need to look into the cause of the phytoplankton formation, he said.

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