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The Sea of Marmara, fabled for centuries for its blue waters and sparkling fish, laps the shores of Istanbul. Its perfect form inspired a 19th-century historian to describe the ancient city as “a diamond set between two sapphires.”

But the Marmara has been sickening for a long time, and this year, it suffered a paroxysm that choked its waters and suffocated marine life. In April, thousands of fish died, and by May, a natural secretion called mucilage emerged, smothering harbors and beaches with its slimy film.

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