Sargassum or not. That is the question


More and more often year after year heavy layers of smelly, thick brown seaweed could potentially wreak havoc along the shorelines of your favorite vacation spots, including the Caribbean.

After escaping from the Sargasso Sea, this menacing seaweed has been devouring beaches along the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean, according to the specialized digital publication ACUU Weather of New York

The Sargasso Sea is in the North Atlantic Ocean near the Bermuda Triangle. The region is known for its high concentration of floating Sargassum. Ancient sailors created the early myths and legends about the sea set of brown algae species that float on the ocean surface.

Now that the floating plants have been detected in equatorial waters between west Africa and northeastern South America, including some Caribbean region areas researchers say the algae blooms have exploded in extent and frequency in recent years.

Five countries signed an agreement in March 2014 committing to the protection of the Sargasso Sea.

Conservationists and scientists explain Sargasso hosts a rich diversity of wildlife, including leatherback sea turtles, humpback whales, and bluefin tuna. The animals eat and take shelter in a seaweed called sargassum, which floats in massive quantities in the area—some say it looks like a golden, floating rain forest—and gives the sea its name.

The high seas—which cover about half the surface area on Earth are like the Wild West. Many nations use those waters for fishing or to extract resources like minerals, but no one country governs them.

However, for the Caribbean whose islands live off massive tourism, the arrival of sargassum activates alarms. Today islands as Dominican Republic to Barbados, countries across the Caribbean are struggling to deal with the unusually large amounts of Sargassum seaweed that are being washed up on many beaches.

The big problem is the strong-smelling rotting seaweed. The arrival volume in 2018 is reportedly up to three to four feet high in some locations. Voluntary efforts to clean beaches are proving ineffective on many coastlines.

The problem for the tourism sector and for local fishermen is that the unsightly piles of seaweed and the difficulty of its removal could begin to have longer term negative economic consequences.

Some islands complain that the seaweed has led to diminish the fishing and a fall in their earnings. Some investors questioning also the long term cost implications in relation to projects they are engaged in. In recent years, there have been a number of mass Sargassum events in the Caribbean and beaches in the United States.

ACUU Weather wrote than large quantities of seaweed blanketed beaches in Ceiba, Puerto Rico, in August 2015. The invasion included a number of shorelines so severely hit that some tourists canceled trips and lawmakers on Tobago called it a “natural disaster”.

Beaches in Galveston, Texas, were inundated by massive piles of seaweed in the summer of 2014. The event drove away beach tourists and hurt the local economy.

The decay of large quantities of Sargassum in enclosed bays can reduce oxygen levels temporarily. This can stress or kill attached animals, such as corals, seagrass, sponges and fishes, scientific studies affirm. One alternative but costly solution being considered against the excesive Sargassum seaweed is the installation of sea barriers.

These, it is suggested, might keep the seaweed from reaching the shore in a manner that will result in the ocean currents then carrying the seaweed back out to sea.

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