A presidential decree issued Friday declared Turkey’s only landlocked sea and the Princes’ Islands it hosts a “special environmental protection zone,” a title that will help its preservation.

The decree published by the Official Gazette brings new regulations for any activity in the sea, in a bid to protect its waters which suffered from heavy pollution. The Marmara Sea, which covers an area of 11,350 square kilometers (4,382 square miles), is the smallest in the country but is vital to the country’s most populated and industrial cities, from Istanbul to Kocaeli.

Last spring, it fell victim to marine mucilage or sea snot, a thick substance that formed a layer that covered swathes of waters, from coasts to open water. The slimy substance, a consequence of pollution among other factors, suffocated the ecosystem before a cleanup campaign eradicated it above the surface. It still remains in some parts of the sea, well below the surface.

The zone specified in the new decree includes waters off the coast of Istanbul, Kocaeli, Yalova, Bursa, Balıkesir, Çanakkale and Tekirdağ, and the coasts of these provinces.

The new mandate is based on a 1989 decree that authorizes the government to declare places at risk of immediate pollution as special environmental protection zones and allows it to redefine and revise any zoning or development plans. It bans “any plans and projects” before a review process by the Ministry of Environment, Urban…

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