A slimy foam named sea snot, also known as marine mucilage, which results from global warming, has been appearing increasingly on the Greek beaches during the summer of 2021. Photos of some of the beaches on the Chalkidiki (Halkidiki) peninsula this September show that the Aegean Sea indeed occasionally sprouts such organic foam.
Scientists relate the appearance of sea snot to global warming. Heating up of the atmosphere due to greenhouse phenomenon increases the temperature of the oceans and the seas, making them more appropriate for certain microorganisms that thrive in warmer waters, while they also create an environment uninhabitable for other animals and plants.
Sea snot mostly consists of microscopic algae known as phytoplankton. While phytoplankton alone isn’t harmful to the environment, when mixed with rising water temperatures, wastewater, pesticides, and global warming, it flourishes and can reproduce at a harmfully rapid rate, affecting biodiversity, blocking sunlight from entering the water and reducing oxygen levels in the sea.
According to the report by the Poseidon System, a network of scientific-research stations supported by the state and European Union that monitor the Greeks seas, the marine heat wave occurring during the second half of June 2021 increased the average daily temperature of the Aegean Sea to 28 degrees Celsius, which is whole 4 degrees higher than previous years.
Local inhabitants in Pefkochori who spoke to Meta.mk team said that the folklore explanation of the sea snot was that “grandmas say its just soap coming from cleaning of ships”. Locals are generally reluctant to discuss the topic of marine mucilage with foreigners.
During June, the British newspaper Independent reported that Greek government initiated an investigation of the sea snot outbreak in the waters near the island of Lemnos.
At the time, Greek newspaper Ekathimerini informed that the phenomenon is caused by a nutrient overload in algae resulting from pollution and high temperatures, and is being monitored by the Fisheries Research Institute on behalf of the Greek Environment Ministry.
Stavros Stathakis, vice president of the association of fishermen on Limnos, warned that the sludge is hampering fishing and also putting off tourists in a statement for Ekathimerini.
“It forms every so often but usually dissipates after a while. This is the first time in a decade we have seen so much,” Stathakis said.
Increasing the quantity and frequency of sea snot outbreaks indicates the consequences of climate change caused by humans, via excretion of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels (coal, oil, natural gas) and dropping waste into the water systems.
The outbreak of sea snot in the Aegean Sea has been much less impactful than the recent overflow of sea snot in the Marmara Sea in neighboring Turkey.
As Global Voices reported in June, the Turkish authorities initiated inspections against suspected sources of the mucilage and a massive cleanup effort. Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan blamed the sea snot bloom on by people and companies dumping waste into the Marmara Sea.