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Sargassum returning but reduced amount predicted

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by Linda Straker

  • Sargassum seaweed is returning to the beaches on the eastern side of the island
  • In 2018 and 2019, infrastructure was created to assist with beach clean up

Fisheries officials in St Andrew have confirmed that sargassum seaweed is returning to the beaches on the eastern side of the island, but it is not as bad as the 2018 and 2019 invasion which saw government spending millions to keep beaches clean.

“We saw some small amounts last week and today there is more, especially on the Soubise Beach,” said the fisheries official. In 2018, more than 1,000 square miles of seaweed were detected in satellite photos of the Caribbean.

The University of South Florida’s “Outlook of 2020 Sargussum” predicted that the 2020 sargassum influx will be low when compared to 2018 and 2019. These years were records for sargassum bloom.

The report which was released in February 2020, predicts that the Caribbean Sea will likely experience moderate amounts of sargassum in February to March, while some of the Lesser Antilles Islands (including Barbados, Tobago and Guadeloupe) may experience some small to moderate beaching events on their windward beaches.

“This situation may continue into spring. The seaweed is expected to begin arriving for April, May and June, before departing for another season later in the summer,” the report said.

Sargassum is a brown macroalgae floating on the ocean surface that has plagued beaches and tourist destinations. The first mass beaching was spotted in 2011, and contributing factors are believed to be nutrient inputs from the Amazon River, which discharges into the ocean around where blooms were first spotted; changes in ocean currents; and increased iron deposits from airborne dust.

In 2018 and 2019, the Ministry of the Environment created an infrastructure to assist with the cleaning up of the beaches affected by sargassum. That structure it is understood is still in place and the workers will be called to clean the beach once the need arises.

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