Turkey’s Sea of Marmara has been battling the presence of a thick, viscous substance colloquially known as “sea snot” over the past few months. The phenomenon, defined as marine mucilage by scientists, is the result of mixed factors, from climate change to pollution. The government and the scientific community are looking for solutions to the issue. A research vessel from the Middle East Technical University (METU) examined the situation at sea and scientists aboard warned that the mucilage, not uncommon in the past, has reached unprecedented levels this year.

Professor Barış Salihoğlu, head of METU’s Institute of Maritime Sciences, says mucilage was widespread, from the surface to the bottom. “We have seen a gel-like structure spreading across the sea and never encountered such a large mass before,” he told Demirören News Agency (DHA) on Friday. The university’s Science-2 vessel was deployed to the sea for mucilage research earlier this week and will continue research for four more days, before presenting its findings to the Ministry of Environment and Urban Planning which leads the cleaning efforts against the mucilage.

Salihoğlu says the mucilage is not something new, but this time it has significantly reduced oxygen levels at sea. He said the lack of waste treatment aggravated the situation. “Agricultural waste, industrial waste pouring into the sea from deltas, tributaries particularly worsened it. We need to halve the pollution at least. Cleaning the pollution at least by half would return oxygen levels to normal within five to six years. We need patience and also swift measures,” he warned.