The Journey of the Sargassum

Posted By: Marty

The Journey of the Sargassum - 08/03/15 05:50 PM

There is a sea on the Planet Earth which has no shores.  It is over two million square miles in size, and it is completely distinct from its surrounding waters both oceanographically and ecologically.  It supports roughly a million tons of plant life, which provides habitat for over 100 species of fish and 140 species of invertebrates, and many of them occur nowhere else.  All this teeming abundance is in waters that are so nutrient poor that visibility can be a couple hundred feet on a good day.  If not for this astonishing ecosystem, in this astonishing sea without shores, this place would be an aquatic desert.

It’s called the Sargasso Sea.  It is contained by a clockwise gyre of four different ocean currents that circle between North America, Europe and North Africa, and it is about 1,000 miles across at its widest point.  Its sea level is three feet higher than the surrounding waters, and the waters are warmer and saltier.  The foundation of the ecosystem is a remarkable seaweed called sargassum (Sargassum natans and Sargassum fluitans), a highly unusual marine algae that is completely pelagic (free drifting).   It reproduces asexually through simple fragmentation, and it can do so easily, and anywhere it goes.  Because it is pelagic, it does not have to compete for precious real estate on the ocean bottom, and it also is not limited to shallow coastal waters like the benthic (attached) seaweeds, which not only have to find some substrate to attach to, but then have to be able to grow up into some light so they can photosynthesize.  Sargassum has none of those constraints, and it grows in great mats and windrows in a sprawling, mid-ocean world where the coastlines are hundreds of miles away and the bottom is sixteen thousand feet down.  It consumes carbon and produces oxygen in huge quantities.  It has been called the golden floating rainforest of the ocean.

Sail east from anywhere in the US or west from anywhere in Europe and you’ll probably have to cross it.  Sailors have known about it for centuries, and it has broken some strong hearts when the seaweed was sighted from shipboard by early explorers, and they thought they were approaching land.

For myself, I started reading up on it because, though we’ve always gotten a little sargassum on our beaches around here, recently it’s been hitting us in huge quantities.  It’s ugly.  It’s slimy.  It puts out hydrogen sulfide gas as it decomposes and it stinks.  The tourists are not pleased.  “WTF?” my friends are all asking me—but in that quaint way we older folks have of spelling things out completely.

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Sargassum on the Tulum Beach

Well, I knew this would be a tough one and I was right.  We’ve all read several articles in the popular press about this and none of them answer the question why, so I knew it wouldn’t be easy to find.  A week into it I muttered to myself that it might have been easier if I’d been looking up the meaning of life.  Then, on a whim, I did so.  It’s 42.  If you’ve read any Douglas Adams you already knew that.  But anyway, bear with me, because I did arrive at what I consider to be an answer, and getting there was a pretty good trip, not just through the life cycle of one of the most interesting seaweeds in the world, but also the amazing Sargasso Sea, the world’s ocean currents, climate change, and agricultural and urban runoff as measured in continent-fulls.

It used to be thought that the Sargasso Sea was a one-way destination for sargassum seaweed.  The model went like this:  The sargassum grows in the north-west Gulf of Mexico (they’ve always gotten some on the Texas beaches), and that was thought to be sort of its nursery.  Then the Gulf Stream current catches it and whips it around the southern tip of Florida and up the east coast of North America, and it settles out into the gyre that is the Sargasso Sea, and there the story ends.


The problem with that model is that it’s a one-way model—the sargassum goes in, and nothing comes out—and ecologists just hate one-way models.  To any ecologist with a proper reverence for the Interconnectedness of Everything (capital ‘I’, capital ‘E’), if you’re looking at a one-way system, you’ve only found half the system.  It wasn’t until last year that three Texas A&M scientists found what appears to me to be the other half.  They developed a way to identify sargassum in satellite photos.  If there is enough of it, it reflects wavelengths of light that jump right out at you if you use the right filter.  Even if there is not enough to be directly visible, its presence breaks surface tension and dampens wave motion, creating what the scientists call a “slick” on the water.  They started going through images, all the way back to the year 2000, which was the earliest year that the photos had enough resolution for this.  What they found was that every year, a weather occurrence called the Azores High Pressure System creates strong south-bound winds, and they don’t exactly disrupt this huge North Atlantic Gyre—but they jail-break a bunch of sargassum out of it.

The Sargassum Loop System

This expanded hugely the travels that we understood Sargassum to make.  When it breaks out of the gyre, it drops down through three different passages between the island nations that border the Caribbean on the north—between Cuba and Haiti, between Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, and between Saint Thomas and Anguilla the sargassum is blown through the passages, and it ends up in the Caribbean, where the North Equatorial Current grabs it and sweeps it west down the same gun barrel that brings us our hurricanes—right at the Yucatan.  Then the Gulf Stream grabs it and carries it around the north-east tip of the Yucatan and into the Gulf of Mexico, where some of it continues around the south tip of Florida and up the East Coast again to complete the circuit, but a lot of it eddies backwards into the north-west Gulf of Mexico, where it reproduces wildly and buries the beaches in Texas.

They’re calling it the Sargassum Loop System, and it’s recent news, cutting edge science, and a pretty big discovery, but here’s why it doesn’t answer the question my neighbors are asking me:  There seems to be nothing new about it.  As far as the scientists can tell, sargassum has been travelling this circuit all along, and it had only resulted in occasional, and not very heavy, strandings of sargassum on our beaches.

But another study got my attention, and when you put the two together you have something.

In 2011, there was a huge episode of this, and in 2012 a scientist named Johnson and a couple of colleagues did a very clever thing.  You see, scientists have software models of ocean currents.  There is more than one, and people and institutions have worked hard on them, and they’re very detailed and sophisticated, and they do a pretty good job.  And Johnson et al had historical data about where the heavy loads of sargassum were, and on what dates.  So what they did, effectively, is they dropped some virtual sargassum in their software sea at a few of those places and dates, and then ran the tape backwards.

They were amazed at where it ended up.  It wasn’t anywhere near the Caribbean, and it wasn’t anywhere near the Sargasso Sea.  It wasn’t even anywhere near the Sargassum Loop System (which actually hadn’t been discovered yet).  It was in a huge, elongated eddy that lies just above the equator and reaches all the way from South America to Africa.  It’s called the North Equatorial Recirculation Region.  While the huge Equatorial Current is taking everything west, this eddy forms above it, bounded on its north by a weak, usually seasonal current called the North Equatorial Counter Current.  This explained why there had been landfalls not just here in the Caribbean, which has always gotten some sargassum, but also in places like Brazil, and even on the coast of Africa in places like Sierra Leone, where it had never been seen before and people didn’t know what in the heck they were looking at.  And the thing about this eddy, this North Equatorial Recirculation Region, is that it’s swimming in nutrients.  It’s west end is right at the mouth of the Amazon River.  It also gets iron-rich dust blown over from Africa, and coastal upwelling off that coastline as well.  According to their software models, the sargassum stayed there for a “considerable time,” and it just loved that place.  It grew exponentially, moving in eddy-like motions and sucking up all that warmth and all those nutrients and creating masses and masses of itself—and then the counter-current broke down.  The eddy vanished, the floodgates opened, and all that sargassum started across the Caribbean toward us.

SargassumNERRSave - Copy
North Equatorial Recirculation Region

It makes sense when you think about it, because the two biggest rivers in the Americas are the Mississippi and the Amazon.  Which brings us to the subject of continental run-off.

I’ve written before about eutrophication, when I did a piece on jellyfish.  It’s a word you’ll be hearing more of, unfortunately, as we pummel this planet harder and harder, and sure enough, it figures in this story too.  Looked at simply, eutrophication is when excess nutrients wash into a body of water and mess everything up.  The first thing that happens is an algae bloom, and that could be anything from phytoplankton to sargassum, and then as that stuff dies, the decomposition process robs the water of all its oxygen, and you end up with what marine biologists call a dead zone.  This happens in big ways and small ones—I know divers who can swim down our barrier reef and tell you resort by resort whose septic systems aren’t working.  But rivers like the Mississippi and the Amazon empty entire continents of their nutrients, and that now includes fertilizers, pesticides, industrial waste and discharge from sewage treatment plants.  You can see the dead zones on Google Earth now.  Look for the little dead fish icons.  They’re courtesy of William and Mary College and the World Resources Institute (and thank you, Google, for being willing to display them!)  The second biggest dead zone in the world is in a plume running west from the mouth of the Mississippi, which is why the sargassum grows so riotously in the north-west Gulf of Mexico, and man, if you think we’ve got problems, you should see the sargassum in Texas.  They get it on a classic Texan scale.  The piles on the beaches (called wracks) can be ten feet high there, especially around Galveston.  When it comes in, they call it the golden tide.

And sargassum isn’t the only seaweed going nuts from eutrophication.  On the Brittany coast in France, they got a green tide of sea lettuce (Ulva armoricana) in 2009 that off-gassed so much hydrogen sulfide that it killed a horse and rendered its rider unconscious.  In 2011 it returned and killed thirty-six wild boars.  The sensational press coverage left everyone with the impression that the seaweed was toxic (it’s not, but hydrogen sulfide is nothing to trifle with).  The cause was clear:  factory agriculture.  Nutrients come in (in animal feed) but they don’t go out (no one returns the manure to sender), so there’s a gargantuan net increase in the nutrients in the Brittany area, and they end up in the ocean.  Measures to curtail factory farming caused layoffs, closures and protests.  The tourist industry there is 5 million dollars per year.  The agriculture industry is 11.6.  They’re still fighting.

In China, on the shores of the notoriously eutrophic Yellow Sea, the largest green tide ever recorded hit the beaches of Qingdao three weeks before the Olympics and its sailing regatta.  The Chinese rose to it in impressive fashion:  In just three weeks they removed a million tons of Ulva prolifera from the beaches in an operation that involved 10,000 people and cost thirty million dollars.  Then they put up a boom to keep the stuff out that was thirty kilometers long.

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Sargassum Natans

So, the picture that’s shaping up in the mind of this amateur naturalist looks something like this:  The sargassum spends most of a year, or even more than a year, hanging out somewhere it has never been before, which is in the North Equatorial Recirculation Region, and it circles and blooms and circles and blooms. Then at some point, the countercurrent bounding it on the north dissipates, the eddying stops, and the sargassum floods out, rejoins the Sargassum Loop System and buries our beaches.  But there’s a huge question still unanswered, which, of course, is this:  How in the hell did sargassum start getting into the North Equatorial Recirculation Region?  Nobody knows.  Johnson and his team say that the causes “have not yet been elucidated,” but they suspect a link with global warming.

A voice in my head is going, I should have known.  Climate change, and eutrophication.  Both.

And they could both in theory be fixed, because the good news and the bad news here is that they’re both anthropogenic.  Anthropogenic is a scientific term meaning caused by humans.  But I prefer how the great Jimmy Buffet would put it:

It’s our own damn fault.

Now you know.


Posted By: Marty

Re: The Journey of the Sargassum - 08/04/15 11:11 AM

Wide Sargussum In Seas Off San Pedro

The sargassum seaweed is affecting several Caribbean islands and has been reaching Belize as well.

A natural phenomenon is affecting several Caribbean islands and has been reaching Belize as well. We are talking about the sargassum seaweed which is sweeping up along the beaches of San Pedro Island. Only yesterday, The Tobago House of Assembly, THA has deemed the sargassum seaweed invasion across Tobago a natural disaster. The problem is so big that at least three million dollars has been allotted to treat the problem which has begun affecting guest houses along Tobago’s east and west coasts as guests have cancelled reservations as a result of the seaweed. During the Belize Tourism Boards 2015 Tourism Conference on San Pedro over the weekend, officials addressed the matter as it pertains to Belize.

Posted By: Marty

Re: The Journey of the Sargassum - 08/09/15 10:48 AM

Sargassum linked to dead fish washing onshore

Reports from residents of Northern Ambergris Caye are that dead fish are washing onshore at the Mata Grande area. According to these residents, hundreds of dead fish line the shores, making for a most unpleasant sight (and smell) for passersby. The Hol Chan Marine Reserve was notified and they have already identified the cause of the problem: Sargassum.

According to Hol – Chan Marine Reserve manager, Miguel Alamilla, this phenomenon is due to eutrophication caused by the accumulation of the Sargasso seaweed. Sargassum is a brown microalga that floats freely on the sea and never attaches to the ocean floor. This type of seaweed provides refuge for migratory species and it is an essential habitat for some 120 species of fish and invertebrates. However, in the past months, massive quantities of Sargassum line the coast, affecting aquatic resources and even tourism.

Investigations revealed that the great influx of Sargassum on the northern beaches of Ambergris Caye, especially at low tide, has dramatically led to a faster rate in its decomposition, giving way to the mass reproduction of bacteria, which in turn causes eutrophication. This activity causes negative environmental effects such as the death of aquatic animals. Alamilla believes that this is the cause of the dead fish appearing on the northern shoreline of the island. “Due to the accumulation of decomposing Sargassum and the increase of bacteria which consumes all the oxygen in the water, the living organisms such as fish perished due to the lack of oxygen in the water,” said Alamilla.

The proper cleaning of the beach may prevent such incidents from happening; however, recent research has revealed that getting rid of the Sargassum may not be the best option. According to research, Sargassum plays a role in beach nourishment and it’s an important element of shoreline stability. It also provides food for turtles and sea birds and brings in nutrients to species along the beach.

Residents in San Pedro are making the best use of the Sargassum, tackling the unsightly and smelly situation by turning it into a beach. Every Sunday, volunteers join the team of Build-A-Beach Campaign at 10AM, at the south end of the Sir Barry Bowen Bridge and then head out north to collect the Sargassum. The seaweed is gathered, spread it on the beach to dry, and buried in holes along the beach. In this way the Sargassum is used as a landfill nourishing the beach at the same time.

Anyone interested in volunteering can meet the Build-A-Beach team at the Sir Barry Bowen Bridge every Sundays at 10AM.

Click here to read the rest of the article and see more photos in the San Pedro Sun

Is Sargasso causing health issues on the island?

Sargasso has once again invaded the shores of Ambergris Caye, and island residents are concerned about the health hazards that come with it. Not only is the accumulation of seaweed unattractive, but it also produces an unpleasant smell, often compared to that of rotten eggs. In addition, residents are claiming that Sargasso is impacting their health.

According to Dr. Javier Zuniga, decayed Sargasso produces a toxic gas, which can have an effect on people’s health, especially those who are sensitive. “When the seaweed decomposes in the sea, it releases hydrogen sulfide, and produces bacteria that can result in mild skin rash or irritation. It can also cause the eyes to be irritated. The gas is colorless, and therefore, difficult to prevent from inhaling. Sensitive people are most at risk, including babies, the elderly, and those with breathing complications,” said Zuniga. He said that Sargasso only poses a health risk whenever the seaweed is damp. When the seaweed is dried, especially during the summer months, it does not release toxic gas.

Although Zuniga said that there has been no indication of increased health effects due to Sargasso at the Dr. Otto Rodriguez San Pedro Polyclinic II, one island resident Lara Goldman says otherwise. “Whenever I am in the open, and outside my house, my eyes begin to burn. It also has made my heat rash flare up, and I’ve been treating it daily with eye drops and skin creams,” said Goldman to The San Pedro Sun.

Another island resident claims that she has gotten asthma from Sargasso. Zuniga stated that it is possible for a person to get ill if they inhale the sulfide gas in unventilated areas. “The inhaled gas has the possibility to affect the person’s respiratory system. I recommend they see a doctor and be evaluated to treat their symptoms,” said Zuniga.

Beachfront residents have an additional issue. Man-made seawalls have an additional impact on the stagnation of the seaweed, as the seawalls shift the sea’s natural flow. As such, Sargasso collects in massive amounts on their beaches. After fruitless attempts to deal with the issue through government authorities, residents have had to resort to personally removing the Sargasso.

The San Pedro Town Council (SPTC) has stated that they are seeking to address the issue. Mayor Daniel Guerrero acknowledges that Sargasso contributes to beach erosion, and is an environmental risk. The unwanted seaweed is also affecting our tourism product aesthetically, and the SPTC is currently working to address the issue with the guidance of Cuban Ambassador to Belize, Lisette Perez. As Cuba has more experience in handling natural disasters and beach-related issues, Perez and Mayor Guerrero are currently preparing final plans to get rid of Sargasso by recycling it, and using it as landfill.

n addition, other entities like the Belize Tourism Industry Association, the Ministry of Tourism, the Belize Tourism Board, the Department of Environment, along with other agencies, have formed a Sargasso Task Force to reduce its negative impacts. Some of their ideas include: creating a monitoring system with geographic information system technology; issuing a pamphlet with general information on the Do’s and Don’ts of Sargasso; and are working to find specific areas, including San Pedro Town, where Sargasso can be controlled and safely disposed. The Government of Belize is also considering to support and provide assistance to the private sector by providing trucks to dispose the Sargasso.

Although a nuisance to many, Sargasso has many benefits, such as providing a food source, home and shelter to various marine life, encouraging plant growth, and is used as biofuel and land fill.

In the meantime, the SPTC, along with most businesses and resorts along the beach, continue to try and keep our beaches clean. If you would like to make a positive difference in the community, you may join The Phoenix Resort in their weekly Saturday beach clean-ups. For more information on how you can get involved, please contact them at 226-2083 or visit them on Barrier Reef Drive.

Click here to read the rest of the article in the San Pedro Sun

Posted By: Marty

Re: The Journey of the Sargassum - 08/15/15 11:06 AM

Sargasso Situation Causes Tourism Cancellations in Caribbean, Is Belize Next?

With the start of the region’s high tourism season a few months away, some officials are calling for an emergency meeting of the 15-nation Caribbean Community, worried that the worsening seaweed influx could become a chronic dilemma for the globe’s most tourism-dependent region.

Even though the problem is not as bad in Belize, businesses and residents are still feeling the negative effects of the seaweed that keeps on piling up. But it seems that residents on the island of Ambergris Caye are busy tackling the problem and working on solutions before the situation gets out of hand like at other locations in the Caribbean and Mexico.

While beachside businesses are keeping their beach sections clean, the San Pedro Town Council is looking at possible methods to keep public beaches clean of the never-ending Sargasso. The removal of the seaweed from the beach is being discouraged as valuable sand is also removed in the process, causing more erosion. The San Pedro Town Council is closely monitoring such operations that are clearing Sargasso piled up by their employees.

Sargassum experts say that while the sargassum washing up in normal amounts has long been good for the Caribbean, severe influxes like those seen lately are “harmful algal blooms” because they can cause fish kills, beach fouling, tourism losses and even coastal dead zones.

Whatever the reason, the massive sargassum flow is becoming a major challenge for tourism-dependent countries. It is great to see that San Pedro Town residents are taking action before the problem worsens to uncontrollable levels and starts affecting the tourism industry.

Click here to read the rest of the article and see more photos in the Ambergris Today


Posted By: Marty

Re: The Journey of the Sargassum - 08/18/15 11:02 AM

Statement by the Caribbean Tourism Organization on the influx of sargassum seaweed

The seasonal influx of Sargassum seaweed on Caribbean beaches has got the attention of the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) and tourism policymakers and practitioners across the region.

Sargassum is a natural occurrence believed to originate in the Sargasso Sea, a two million-square-mile body of warm water in the north Atlantic near Bermuda, although some scientists believe the current influx was brought into the Eastern Caribbean through the North Brazil Current and because it thrives in warm, nutrient-rich water, the Sargassum simply spreads throughout the region.

It is an unwelcome visitor which can be uncomfortable and which takes away from the beach experience for our guests.

The CTO and our Caribbean partners are treating this matter seriously and with urgency. We have engaged a number of regional and international institutions in our attempts at finding solutions, among them, universities.

A number of theories have been advanced as to the cause of the latest influx, and myriad suggestions put forward for tackling the issue. We will be participating in a symposium being led by the University of the West Indies (UWI) next Monday, August 17th “to crystallize these myriad ideas and theories into workable solutions that can be implemented immediately to address our situation.” We are optimistic that meaningful solutions will emerge.

Among our CTO member-countries the issue differs significantly from one set of circumstances to another, as does the level of the incursion. Even in destinations which are at risk, not all beaches have been affected; in some cases it’s just on the windward coast and not the leeward.

But many seem to agree that what’s needed is a deeper understanding of how to tackle the issue collaboratively, with key stakeholders, public- and private-sector, contributing to the discussion. This is what the CTO is encouraging; this is what we are involved.

The Caribbean has countless attributes which makes our region a most desirable holiday destination. Our history, culture, cuisine, music, hiking, diving, bird-watching, festivals, etc, all make for unforgettable experiences. However, for most of our members, the beach is an integral part of this experience, the pristine nature of which we are proud. We are aware that the influx of sargassum can impact this aspect of our product and we will be at the centre of efforts to find a regional solution.

Posted By: Marty

Re: The Journey of the Sargassum - 08/24/15 10:46 AM

All that weed…

No, I mean the other sort. Smells worse, and just as much trouble. Piles of brown stinking seaweed, sometimes six feet deep, rot on beaches from Barbados to Belize.

“I don’t think it will affect the tourism in Tobago,” said Tourism Minister Gerald Hadeed this month. 

UWI Vice-Chancellor Sir Hilary Beckles disagrees. Last Monday, he called sargassum “the greatest single threat to the Caribbean economy I can imagine.” He wants a Sargassum Emergency Agency.

Sun, sand, sea and sargassum? Island economies depend arms, legs and neck on tourism.

But Hadeed says Tobago “is not only the beaches…it is so beautiful and friendly.”

Yes, up to a point. There’s more to life than beaches. Scuba diving, for starters. But stink up the beaches, and you have trouble. If in doubt, check TripAdvisor.

It’s not just the tourists. Fishing boats can’t work in sargassum-choked seas. Corals are smothered. Bacteria from decaying seaweed grab oxygen, leaving little for other life. Seafront residents complain of asthma attacks. 

Sargassum has its fans. It’s “a golden rain forest of the sea,” says Hazel Oxenford, fisheries professor at UWI’s Cave Hill campus. 

Sargassum provides food and shelter for young flying fish, turtle hatchlings, a whole food web. Ten fish species live only in sargassum, among them the cleverly-camouflaged frogfish, which looks like a scrap of seaweed. Onshore, sargassum stabilises beach sand.

There are a hundred-plus types of sea-bed sargassum. Two Atlantic species—natans and fluitans—are different. They spend their entire life cycle afloat. 

Their tangled mats terrified Columbus and his sailors in the Sargasso Sea.

Today, it’s regional tourism chiefs who have the wobblies.

The sargassum explosion started in 2011. Why?

In normal times, floating sargassum has an annual cycle, following nutrient-rich waters from the Gulf of Mexico to seas around Bermuda.

The recent outbreaks are different. Mats form in equatorial waters, between Brazil and Nigeria. From there, sargassum drifts to the Caribbean in teardrop-shaped concentrations, half-a-mile across and maybe four miles long.

If one of those hits your beaches, you’re in trouble. 

In Barbados, they mess up the scenic east coast and the mid-budget south. 

The glitzy west coast, naturally, is just fine.

In Belize, all beaches face east. They have real trouble.

So, why this southern sargassum? The science is not yet clear. But climate change has warmed the sea surface. Replacing rain forest with agriculture has increased the nutrient inflow from the Amazon. 

Years back, I remember teams of steadfast women employed in Barbados to rake up seaweed, and bury it manually on the beach. That was environment-friendly job creation.

Today, some hoteliers panic, using heavy construction equipment to remove sargassum. Machines lack the delicate touch. They scoop up precious beach sand too.

UWI’s Barbados campus organised a sargassum seminar last Monday. Government ministers from three countries turned up. The host country has a well-focussed Coastal Zone Management Unit.

Sue Springer of Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association spoke bravely of turning negatives into positives. She spoke of bussing guests from south coast hotels to the west coast—which sounds fine, until you’ve met Bajan peak-hour traffic. 

Says Springer: “When there’s a hurricane, we have a hurricane plan. We need to have a sargassum plan.” 

Weather watchers last week tracked Hurricane Danny as it moved west. Texas A&M University is now developing a satellite-based early warning system for sargassum.

Julian Francis, St Vincent’s junior works minister, wants to reap the stuff before it hits shore; a 300-metre boom costs around US$80,000. 

Seaweed has a host of uses. For the Japanese it’s a foodstuff. Dried out, it can be fuel or fertiliser. 

It can make pharmaceuticals, or MDF for construction. An ounce of Estée Lauder’s seaweed-based Crème de Mer was selling for US$110 a decade ago.

But as with most Caribbean manufacturing, there are snags. 

There’s way too much sargassum for the beaches—but we do not have the year-round multi-tonne supply needed for volume manufacturing. Nor do we want low-cost but destructive mechanical harvesting.

Niche products by contrast use tiny volumes which won’t clear the beaches; and their edge is in branding and packaging, not the weed.

We have a crisis. And not just in Tobago.

Trinidad & Tobago Guardian
Posted By: elbert

Re: The Journey of the Sargassum - 08/24/15 01:12 PM

Oh gloom and doom. It seems to me Global Warming is an easy answer for anything nowadays. People get a pimple on their butt and shout 'Global Warming!
I'm hoping our first big storm of this season will be a quick fix for the sargassum on the beaches.
Danny has just entered the Caribbean basin, lets see what happens. Hopefully it will be strong enough to flush this out.
Posted By: Marty

Re: The Journey of the Sargassum - 09/01/15 11:53 AM

Click photos for more pictures!

Prototype of ship to collect sargassum in Quintana Roo. One of the functions is to give use as compost and avoid that it gets to the edge of the beach.

What is Beach Seaweed?

beach seaweed above water

Beach Seaweed is a natural phenomenon

Beach seaweed has been problematic this year, but don’t stress if you are expecting travel to the south. Some of the white sand beaches and crystal clear waters of the Caribbean are darkening with an influx of decaying sargassum.

Brown-coloured seaweed, with small pods attached – also known as sargassum – are washing up on many beaches in Mexico, as far north as the Dominican Republic, and the eastern shores of Barbados, and reportedly smelling like rotten eggs. The decay and rate of sea weed found on the beaches has been so bad in recent years it has become a global issue, being blamed for everything from Rhode Island’s explosions in the sand to disrupting beach developments in West Australia. Sargasasum is a real nuisance this year, and has been a growing problem since 2011.

The Associated Press reported officials calling for an emergency meeting of the 15-nation Caribbean Community and the impact this beach seaweed may have on tourism in the coming months. The costs associated with removing the seaweed are high, and even when the seaweed is cleaned up, the smell can still remain. So what is the takeaway from this news? Is this a natural disaster or an inconvenient part of the natural cycle of ocean life?

Mexican authorities have told the CBC that they will hire over 4,000 temporary workers and spend close to $9.1 million to clean up beach seaweed along the coast, as well as research methods to collect sargassum before it hits the sand.

Here is what you need to know about seaweed in the Caribbean.

Why does beach seaweed wash up?

Sargassum grows and floats in open water in the mid-North Atlantic Ocean, called the Sargasso Sea. This long, stringy seaweed plays an integral role in ocean life, often a great nursery for sea turtles and other marine life. Small amounts of this washed up seaweed appear naturally every year from currents and the natural flow of the ocean, but scientists are unclear about why so much is burying the white sands of the Caribbean this year.

underwater seaweed

Marine life relies on sea weed for shelter and as a source of food.

Some researchers are suggesting rising ocean temperatures and climate change are to blame, while others blame an increase of pollutants and nutrients from the Amazon interacting with the warmer waters.

Since sargassum is a breeding ground for marine life, when it washes ashore, that life dies, causing a chemical reaction and a rotting smell. The beached seaweed in the Caribbean then becomes a breeding ground for sand fleas.

Beach seaweed alert! What does this mean for my trip?

There has been no official declaration of natural disaster or issue regarding visiting the Caribbean islands affected by the Caribbean and Mexico seaweed problem. WestJet has released an advisory, stating hotels along affected beaches are using a range of methods in cleaning up their beachfront properties, but states that some activities in destination may be limited due to the lack of waterfront property and mounds of seaweed. The washing up of seaweed in the Caribbean does not affect all islands, or all beaches on the affected islands, at the same time. To date, the problem has been seen in Barbados, Tobago, the Dominican Republic, and the highest amounts of washed up seaweed have been seen at Mexico resorts.

underwater seaweed

Marine life camouflage in seaweed to avoid predators

Should I cancel holidays or delay booking because of beach seaweed?

The influx of sargassum on beaches is considered a “force majeure,” meaning it’s weather-related and can not be fixed or changed. Seaweed in the Caribbean is a natural phenomenon that occurs annually, but this year, it is happening at a much faster pace and quantity. Since there is no advisory in place, regular terms and conditions regarding cancelling trips, with any applicable fees at the hand of the traveller.

The travel agents at have not yet received major complaints from clients, however, we are doing our best to keep agents aware of the issues. For travellers looking to book a vacation, we recommend proceeding with your plans, with the understanding that your vacation will still be safe and can include pool-side sunshine. Hotels in the affected areas are working to clean up the beaches, to allow for beach-goers to fully enjoy their vacations. With ocean currents and changes in the wind, the seaweed in the Caribbean is regularly changing course; meaning one resort could be affected one day, and not the next; the issue can move further down the beach.

beach seaweed

Underwater seaweed keeping the ocean happy

How does sargassum affect the environment?

Sargassum can cause a large mat of algae that blocks sunlight for coral reefs, as well as settling out over coral life and smothering the reefs. Baby turtles may have difficulty hatching and getting through the the thickness of the seaweed, causing issues for hatch-lings. Positive uses of the Sargassum seaweed can be used as a bio stimulant to promote and enhance growth in plants. This includes organic mulch, organic fertilizer, animal feed and other uses in Caribbean agriculture. The seaweed is not limited to a tourism issue, and contributes to recreational usage by the residents that are dealing with this issue locally. Cleaning the beaches can potentially hurt the organic life that relies on the seaweed and is not just an issue for tourism in the Caribbean islands.

Beach seaweed is everywhere! When will it be cleaned up?

Unfortunately, we don’t know. Hotel and resort staff where the surge of seaweed is washing ashore are working to clear this, although due to marine life, machinery is not being used to protect the beach and not disrupt vacationers. Travellers should be advised that although this is an inconvenience, it is out of your travel agent or tour operator’s control and is being acknowledged and worked on in the affected areas.

Remember that beach seaweed is a natural occurrence, and despite the minor disruptions that come with the smell of the sand, there are still many ways to enjoy a vacation. Utilize the resources at the resorts, enjoy the comforts of the pool and don’t let this natural phenomenon distract you from having a great vacation. The seaweed provides shelter and nourishment for marine life.

seaweed shelter

Beach Seaweed provides shelter for marine life.

Beach Seaweed resources and videos:

If you’re interested in learning more about sargassum, its effects on the environment and possible benefits such as fertilizer, here are some resources for further reading and research:




Sargazo seguirá llegando, advierten especialistas
Interesting article on Sargassum. Realizan en Cancún el Simposio sobre Ecosistemas Marinos de América Latina y el Caribe, donde hablan del arribo atípico del sargazo. Los destinos del Caribe Mexicano tendrán que lidiar permanentemente con el arribo masivo de sargazo en sus costas, pues el fenómeno seguirá presente, de acuerdo con especialistas del Instituto Politécnico Nacional (IPN), participantes en el Simposio sobre Ecosistemas Marinos de América Latina y el Caribe, efectuado en Cancún. El evento reúne a más de 50 investigadores provenientes de México, Estados Unidos, Argentina, Venezuela, Brasil, Perú, Francia e India, así como a expertos de la NASA, de la National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), de la Organización de las Naciones Unidas para la Educación, la Ciencia y la Cultura (UNESCO, por sus siglas en Inglés); de las universidades Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) y Autónoma de Baja California. Los temas abordados versan sobre la pesca, la contaminación y la salud del ecosistema marino, la gobernanza, la economía, la productividad y el arribo atípico del sargazo, fenómeno que ha cambiado el paisaje azul de la zona costera del Caribe, al tornarlo color ocre, con fuertes impactos para el Turismo y diversas especies del ecosistema costero, como la tortuga marina, los arrecifes de coral, la playa e incluso el tiburón ballena. El investigador del Centro Interdisciplinario de Ciencias Marinas del IPN en Baja California, Francisco Arreguín Sánchez, indicó que las tendencias “parecen indicar” que la llegada masiva de sargazo –una especie de macro alga parda- proseguirá en El Caribe, lo que implica que el fenómeno debe ser documentado para elaborar modelos predictivos a corto plazo que permiten contar con opciones de prevención.

Posted By: Marty

Re: The Journey of the Sargassum - 10/13/15 11:04 AM

The beach at the Rosewood Mayakoba on the Riviera Maya before and after a SurfRake machine cleanup.

Caribbean, Mexico fighting sargassum with heavy-duty machines

Two companies, one U.S.-based and the other French, recently found themselves in the front lines in the battle to rid beaches of sargassum, the stinky, brown, ugly masses of floating seaweed that are carpeting the shorelines of popular destinations in the Caribbean and Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula.

Sargassum shows up every year, but this summer’s onslaught is the largest on record, leading Brian Lapointe, a professor and oceanographer with Florida Atlantic University’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, to declare it “the worst year ever. I’d say we’ve hit a crisis level.”

That makes it a good year for Connecticut-based H. Barber & Sons, which has manufactured beach-cleaning equipment since 1966, and CDO Innov, a French company that manufactures industrial equipment used for environmental issues.

Sargassum presents several challenges as well as a rotten-eggs odor. On many beaches, the stuff washes up with every tide. Workers can rake it and remove it in the morning, only to have it return on the next tide, pushed along by ocean currents and winds.

It also poses a major disposal problem.

Chris Kelly, director of sales and marketing for H. Barber & Sons, outlined some scenarios for getting rid of the muck, but he admitted that “none are perfect.”

The SurfRake in action.

“Disposal depends on where the beach is located,” Kelly said. “In Galveston, where they had catastrophic amounts of sargassum in 2014, they’d stockpile it on a remote part of the beach far from sunbathers and swimmers, let it dry out and decompose and then use it to build up the dunes. The problem with that is that it attracts flies and insects, and it stinks. Some places use it for fertilizer or mulch, but many times it ends up going to a landfill.”

He was on site in Guadeloupe two weeks ago, training workers to use his company’s patented Surf Rake machine, first manufactured in 1966 and redesigned in 2010.

“This machine picks up 95% of the sargassum and other algae on a beach,” he said. “It does not pick up the surrounding wet sand, so the beach is not being eroded. It’s not a complicated machine to operate, but it does require initial training.”

H. Barber & Sons’ rakes have been the go-to solution for several big resorts in the Yucatan, whose beaches have been plagued by sargassum this year.

“There are 50 Surf Rakes in operation in the Yucatan,” Kelly said. “Some of the bigger resorts buy them outright. Others are bought by contractors that the resorts and municipalities hire to clean up the beaches. Each machine is $65,000, so it’s a big investment.”

Among the resorts in Cancun and the Riviera Maya that have the Surf Rake in their seaweed-cleanup arsenal are the Moon Palace Golf & Spa Resort, Mayan Palace Riviera Maya, Grand Palladium Riviera Resort & Spa, Grand Riviera Princess, Viva Wyndham Maya and three resorts in the Mayakoba complex: Banyan Tree Hotel & Resort, Fairmont Mayakoba and Rosewood Mayakoba.

Some of the smaller Caribbean islands, like Guadeloupe and Martinique, depend upon contractors who own the machines to clean the beaches.

“Tourists expect clean beaches, so it’s not a problem that can be ignored,” Kelly said.

He estimated that there are more than 1,000 Surf Rake machines in operation around the world.

His chief competitor is CDO Innov, a company headquartered in Machecoul, a small town in western France. One of its solutions is an amphibious vehicle called AMP, which can execute many tasks, including collecting mounds of seaweed on the beach, at the waterfront and in the sea.

The vehicle has a suction nozzle connected to a high-capacity pumping system.

To develop AMP, CDO Innov partnered with another French company, Thomsea, a leader in marine spill equipment and the inventor of the engine-driven seaweed action pump.

“The solution is very effective and can collect 25 tons of seaweed per hour,” said Guillaume Amiand, marketing communications officer, who added that the AMP system is designed to collect sargassum without destroying native flora and fauna.

CEO Cyril Thabard said, “The testing we have done guarantees that any living creature sucked up with our system [i.e. shrimp, eels or fish] emerges alive and well. Our machines also do not damage the turtles’ nests on the beaches.”

Once the sargassum is collected, it goes to recycling centers; it can be used to make plastic bags, clothing, paper and fertilizer.

“We live in the west of France in Brittany,” Thabard said. “And we’ve been recycling green seaweed for quite a while, so we are at the cutting edge of technology due to the involvement of many science labs in the area.”

Like H. Barber & Sons, CDO Innov has been marketing its solutions to several resorts and destinations in the Caribbean. Its machines start at $50,000 each, and the company said that training is imperative to guarantee the machine’s best performance.

CDO Innov executives said they are currently in talks with resorts in the Dominican Republic, the Bahamas, Jamaica and Belize about purchases of the AMP, which is already in use in Guyana and Brazil.

Not every resort or destination is looking to heavy equipment to fix the problem. Dreams Riviera Cancun Resort & Spa recently staged its own cleanup initiative involving teams of employees who competed to collect and remove the most seaweed from the resort’s beach, with cash prizes going to the top three teams. The resort reported that over the past three weeks, more than 23 tons of the weeds and resulting muck were collected and removed.

Posted By: Marty

Re: The Journey of the Sargassum - 10/30/15 11:35 AM

Mexico deploys its navy to face its latest threat: Monster seaweed

Seaweed invades Mexico's coast

The country has launched a massive cleanup effort to combat the piles of algae washing up on its popular Caribbean beaches.

CANCUN, Mexico — Surrounded by a four-man camera crew, the Japanese honeymooners were ready to make memories.

In their wedding whites against the turquoise Caribbean waters, the couple leapt off the beach and kicked their heels. Then they whipped out matching sombreros and unfurled a giant Mexican flag. Their photo shoot was perfect, if you could ignore the smelly strip of brown algae fouling the white sands.

“It’s disgusting,” photographer Juan Manuel Delgado said. “I’ve worked on the beaches for 21 years, and this is something that has never happened before.”

From Barbados to Belize, Cancun to Tulum, a viny brown seaweed known as sargassum has invaded the Caribbean basin this year. Vast floating mats have washed up and buried beaches. The piles of seaweed grew more than four feet high in Antigua and forced some people to abandon their homes. Tobago’s legislature declared a natural disaster last month as the stench of decomposing seaweed, and the dead fish and turtles caught within it, caused nausea among tourists. Hilary Beckles, the vice chancellor of the University of the West Indies, called it “the greatest single threat to the Caribbean economy I can imagine.”

“It’s been horrendous,” said David Freestone, executive secretary of the Sargasso Sea Commission.

For Mexico, whose Caribbean coastline attracts more than 10 million visitors and generates $8 billion in tourism-related revenue a year, the arrival of sargassum became a cabinet-level crisis. When José Eduardo Mariscal de la Selva, the director general of Cancun’s maritime department, received a photo one morning in July from his beach cleaners, he assumed it was a joke. Within days, the country’s tourism and environment ministers were touring Cancun to assess the calamity.

Mexico’s tourism industry is like an aging gladiator, having battled swine flu outbreaks, drug-war violence and intense storms over the past decade — including Hurricane Patricia, which sent sunbathers fleeing the Pacific coast last week. Now, some local authorities question whether seaweed might strike the fatal blow.

“Beaches are what we sell to the whole world and what we depend on, directly or indirectly, for all our income,” Mariscal said. And hotel guests paying $500 a night do not want to open the shades to find paradise matted down under layers of stinking, fly-infested algae.

Since the July invasion, Mexico has launched a herculean cleanup effort. Along the coast of Quintana Roo state, the government hired 5,000 day laborers in four-hour shifts to rake seaweed from more than 100 miles of beaches.

From one popular stretch of Cancun, workers hauled off half a million cubic feet of seaweed — more than 1,000 truckloads, Mariscal said. Cancun gave local boozers the chance to leave the town drunk tank early if they put in time on the seaweed chain-gangs. The federal government has budgeted $9 million so far to remove the stinky mess, and hotels are expected to pay millions per month for further maintenance.

The Mexican navy has deployed its oceanographers to track the seaweed and launched research voyages to study “what provoked this arrival,” said Rear Adm. Fernando Alfonso Angli Rodriguez. There are proposals to buy boats and floating barriers to block the seaweed before it reaches the beaches. And the navy is currently testing a hydraulic suck-pump that has been used in the Dominican Republic.

“The best way to collect sargassum is in the sea, before it sinks,” said Angli, the navy’s director general for oceanography. “We are working on this very hard.”

This type of algae is not new to these parts. Christopher Columbus noted its abundance, and it is how the Sargasso Sea, in the north Atlantic, got its name. In the past, it wasn’t seen as much of a nuisance, as it provides a floating habitat for turtles, fish and birds. But spikes in the growth of sargassum were recorded starting about five years ago.

This year’s bountiful bloom has baffled seaweed scientists. Chuanmin Hu, a professor of optical oceanography at the University of South Florida, who tracks the sargassum by satellite, said that the summer of 2015 showed the largest coverage in history. He calculated that there were 12,300 square miles of sargassum this July, about the size of Maryland, compared with 2,300 square miles four years earlier.

“It’s in the entire tropical Atlantic,” Hu said. “It’s amazing.”

Scientists have offered different theories to explain the anomaly, from climate change that has shifted ocean currents to increased runoff from farms in the Amazon into the ocean. “What caused this?” Hu asked. “That is still a mystery.”

Seaweed is piled up on the beach of Akumal, a tourist town south of Cancun, in October. The Caribbean coast of Mexico has had a surge in seaweed that has hurt the tourism industry.

Along the most popular Cancun tourist beaches, authorities have now fought the sargassum to a draw, particularly as the amount washing up has eased up in recent weeks. But farther south, in places such as Akumal, Tulum and Mahahual, visitors who come for Mayan ruins and tropical beaches still have to deal with festering piles of seaweed.

“I don’t mind it so much,” Stefano Bilosi, a 29-year-old Italian honeymooner in Akumal, sunbathing next to a musky thatch of seaweed, was saying when his new wife, Federica Brentaro, interjected.

“I don’t like the stuff,” she said.

“She didn’t swim,” he admitted.

“No,” she said.

Down the beach, Simone Backhausen, a 25-year-old Australian veterinary nurse, took a more holistic view.

“I enjoy it. It’s part of the ocean. It doesn’t hurt you or anything; it doesn’t sting you,” she said. “You just get through it, and you get over it. It’s not a big deal, I don’t think. That’s coming from a backpacker’s point of view.”

The frantic cleanup has now prompted its own backlash, as environmental groups protest the use of backhoes and bulldozers to move seaweed mountains. The Mexican Center for Environmental Rights said hotels’ reliance on heavy machinery and shoreline netting is causing damage to species that frequent the beach. Alejandra Serrano Pavón, a regional director, has collected photographs of dead sea turtles.

Authorities say that the collected sargassum can be used to fortify sand dunes and be reprocessed into fertilizers for public parks and gardens. But those silver linings don’t mean much to the average Mexican hotel owner.

“The cruises are going to arrive in October, and the tourists are not going to want to set one foot in this town because of the pestilence here,” said Cristobal Aguilar, who runs the Hotel Arenas in Mahahual, farther south along the coast. His hotel is offering 25 percent discounts to attract customers willing to ignore the vegetative stench.

“Things are very bad here,” he said.

Washington Post

Posted By: Marty

Re: The Journey of the Sargassum - 12/13/15 11:13 AM

BTB to help BTIA solve sargassum problem

The Belize Tourist Board (BTB) and the government of Belize will work with tourism industry stakeholders to solve the problem of cleaning up sargassum off the beaches; as Cabinet has already been briefed on the situation. This was the good news BTB director Herbert Haylock communicated to members of the Belize Tourism Industry Association (BTIA) when the stakeholders met to seek practical solutions to the sargassum problem at a forum hosted by the BTIA at the Ramada Princess Hotel and Casino in Belize City last Thursday, December 3rd.

Haylock told the constituency that a joint task force from the Ministries of Tourism and Aviation, Forestry and Fisheries, and Natural Resources were presently considering a policy for the best way forward. He added that he could not offer a precise timetable for when government would produce its national policy on the issue, but he optimistically opined that it could be within a month, as Cabinet had been briefed on the issue from before the elections.

The president of the BTIA Placencia chapter, Stuart Krohn, made haste to assure Haylock that the BTIA was not looking for a hand-out; as each tourism property has been addressing the problem which occurred in August, each in their own way. But he requested that the BTIA would like the government to issue a national policy on how to deal with the problem that would apply across the board nationwide, on how the problem would be addressed. For while tourism property owners were busy cleaning their stretch of beach, no one was clearing away the sargassum from neighboring public land and beaches along properties where the owners were absent; so this remained a problem for those involved in trying to keep their beaches clean.

One suggestion put forward was that the sargassum phenomenon, when it occurs, should be treated as a national emergency to be addressed and dealt with by the National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO), which has the equipment and other resources to deal with the problem. No one is too clear on the scientific cause of the problem, but industry stakeholders anticipate that it is a problem that may recur; as there is a large mass of sargassum floating in the ocean off the coast of West Africa. Once the climatic conditions are right and the ocean currents are working in tandem, this sargassum will break away and float into the Caribbean; and once the sargassum reaches the Windward Islands in April, the BTIA stakeholders know it will be only a matter of months before the sargassum reaches our shores again.

The sargassum problem is not unique to Belize; and Chief Executive Officer Hugh Riley from the Caribbean Tourism Organization shared the experience of how the tourism industry has been addressing the issue in other Caribbean territories.

Mexican biologist Nallely Hernandez Palacios, Deputy Director of the technical unit for Conservation and Management of Protected Natural Reserves of Yucatan and the Mexican Caribbean, shone a ray of sunshine on the gloom of the problem, by introducing a machine, the Sarganeitor, which Mexican authorities have been using with considerable success to clean up their sargassum problem. She explained that the machine was originally designed to clean up vegetation in inland waterways, but had proved quite effective when adapted to address the sargassum phenomena. Essentially, the Sarganeitor is like a floating combine which goes harvesting the sargassum from the sea at a rate of 7.5 tons per day, and depositing it aboard a boat. It’s a very practical solution for cleaning up the sargasum from the seas, before it hits the beaches; but at 2 Million pesos (about $300,000) it does not come cheap. In the Belize context, it is debatable whether the BTB or the BTIA should invest in such equipment, for a problem which may or may not occur.

Hernandez-Palacios said the National Commission of Natural Protected Areas had spent some $159,000 in cleaning up about 10,000 tons of sargassum along a 5.4 kilometer stretch of coastline in the Isla Mujeres Punta Cancun national park area. Elsewhere, other Mexican stakeholders had cleaned up 149,000 tons of sargassum at a cost of US$225,000 along 74.8 km of coastline.

Of course, once the sargassum is harvested; the next question was what to do with it. One solution was to bury it under the dunes above the high-water mark, but Mexican authorities found that using heavy equipment to push the beached sargassum up the beach to the disposal area had a negative ecological impact in that heavy earth-moving equipment also crushed the eggs in sea-turtle nests buried beneath the sand. So they recommended using lighter vehicles, with flotation tires to minimize the ecological impact; one such vehicle was a sort of beach rake with tines to comb the sargassum off the beach without removing too much sand. Another was for the turtle nesting areas to be cleaned by hand, although this had a higher man-power cost. Other uses aside from landfill was to use it as fertilizer because of its potassium and phosphates content, or alternatively as a compost on pig farms.

Oceana Belize representative Roxanne Perez-Gentle shared the Belize experience, and the most clean-up campaigns in the affected areas had been a community led response, done mostly by hand, using volunteer labor for the most part; and the sargassum collected had been buried in ditches dug behind the beach area. She noted that it was a problem which demanded a solution; as the sargassum had worked as a floating broom, sweeping in all other flotsam and plastic debris of the ocean and depositing it all on the beach in a most unsightly manner. She said they found the sargassum had also trapped a number of marine organisms, such as small fish, turtles and crabs, which all contributed to a most unpleasant smell when the sargassum began to decay.

Amber Edwards of San Pedro’s “Build-a-Beach” campaign shared the Isla Bonita experience, in which tourism property owners had recruited mostly volunteers to clean up the beaches by hand. The volunteers also devised a unique method of using a sort of seine net to harvest the floating sargassum out of the water.

Other stakeholders from Placencia, Seine Bight and Hopkins also described how each had dealt with the problem; some properties solved the problem by mounting booms, nets and breakwaters offshore to keep the sargassum off their beaches; but where these deflection barriers were installed, they only magnified the problem for other neighboring properties. One such barrier, called the “Beach Bouncer”, is commercially marketed for this purpose, and at $6,000 for a 100-foot section; some might find it an affordable solution. Not everyone welcomed this answer, as the sargassum when deflected simply floats down-wind; as the currents carry it further along the coast to become somebody else’s problem. To protect a beach effectively, the barrier needs to extend along the entire length of beach, but it has to be staggered in sections which overlap at gaps which allow fishing boats and other crafts to access the open sea.

San Pedro Sun

Posted By: Marty

Re: The Journey of the Sargassum - 01/08/16 11:11 AM

CARICOM On Sargassum Scourge

Posted By: Marty

Re: The Journey of the Sargassum - 03/24/16 10:04 PM

UK billionaire discusses sargassum solutions with OECS ministers

Officials from the British Virgin Islands, Anguilla, Dominica, and Antigua and Barbuda, along with leading scientists and experts from around the world, joined British billionaire entrepreneur and philanthropist Sir Richard Branson this week in the BVI to discuss the ongoing issue of sargassum seaweed, which is affecting the Caribbean and the very important tourism industry.

It is a high stakes event involving the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), with expectations of immediate solutions to stem the problem to include making a business from sargassum.

Branson is working with the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) to develop a regional strategy to be implemented locally by member states. The OECS is acting as the technical moderator for the conference along with BVI technicians and Branson's own team of environmentalists.

“Sargussum seaweed is a threat to tourism, the livelihood of fishers and the marine environment,” Montserrat’s minister of trade and environment Claude Hogan noted. “Finding a strategy which we can action locally is the dominant theme of the conference."

The environment ministers of Montserrat, BVI, Anguilla and Antigua have been asked to champion the project to work with Branson and his Virgin Unite charity to find solutions to the problem.

Hogan said they have identified some of the main issues but no single solution has yet been formulated.

"One of the bullets is public education and information on Sargassum," he said.

There's also the use of Sargassum as an animal feed.

Branson has also shared that energy must be given to conserving seafood and managing the catches of lobster in particular. According to Hogan, the investor is willing to pay for his methods to be implemented and he has already agreed a marine project for Montserrat.

The billionaire, who owns Moskito Island, along with nearby Necker Island in the British Virgin Islands, has more than 400 companies under his Virgin brand. Many of these companies, including Virgin and Virgin Holidays, are in the travel industry. Moskito Island is part of the Virgin Limited Edition franchise, which features three villas and can house up to 22 guests for exclusive use according to the website.

Caribbean News Now
Posted By: Marty

Re: The Journey of the Sargassum - 03/30/18 06:56 PM

Considered the greatest single threat to the Caribbean, Sargassum is blamed for dead fish on Ambergris Caye

The influx of Sargassum seaweed has been accumulating along the coast of Ambergris Caye and nearby islands for the past several weeks. The thick accumulation of these sea plants on the coastline is apparently causing detrimental effects on certain fish species as residents have reported dead fish along the shores. The Hol Chan Marine Reserve was made aware of dead fish and considered that the excess of Sargassum in certain areas of the island might be the cause of their death.

According to Hol Chan’s Manager Miguel Alamilla, last year they recorded a number of dead fish due to a large amount of Sargassum accumulating on the shores of the island. He also explained why fish near the shore end up dying. “Once Sargassum drifts to shore it dies and due to poor water circulation it begins to decompose,” said Alamilla. “What happens next is that the microorganisms decomposing the algae on the seaweed consumes all the oxygen out of the surrounding water causing fish to die in the immediate area, such process is called eutrophication.”

The local authorities have been working along the beach trying to remove as much Sargassum as they can. While, the different restaurants, hotels, and bars along the beach have also teamed up to try to clean the beach as it is affecting their businesses as well. The idea to use Sargassum for the landfill has been discouraged by some residents who have resorted to this method in the past. According to them, Sargassum continues to further decay once it is buried and this can result in the land on top of it to cave in.

Click here to read the rest of the article and see more photos in the San Pedro Sun

Posted By: Marty

Re: The Journey of the Sargassum - 04/05/18 11:31 AM

Every year around this time, our island is invaded by sargassum sea weed and there is little that can be done. The San Pedro Town Council, residents and resorts/hotels daily try to overcome this problem by collecting it into piles and later disposing of it. There are however some uses for this sargassum: it can be used as landfill, with time it turns into sand, and can be used as a natural fertilizer! Here is a graphic to help spread awareness with our friends and visitors. Check it out!

[Linked Image]
Posted By: Marty

Re: The Journey of the Sargassum - 04/05/18 07:37 PM

Caye Caulker Village Council Notice on Sargassum

At this moment, our island is invaded by sargassum sea weed and there is little that can be done by our CCVC workers. The Caye Caulker Village Council, is asking all residents, hotels and business owners to assist the CCVC to overcome this problem by collecting it into piles on a section of the beach area which will later be picked up tomorrow and monday to be disposed of by the CCVC workers. The sargassum will be taken to the Sports Complex Area in Bahia to be used as landfill for our project. There are however some other uses for this sargassum: it can be used as landfill, with time it turns into a material that can be used as a natural fertilizer!

Thank you in advance for your cooperation!


PG tackles Gulf Weed problem

Sargassum or Golf Weed is becoming more and more a problem in coastal communities. Every year around this time, tons and tons of the seaweed wash up on shore and communities have to contend with either leaving it where it lands or clearing it. For Punta Gorda, the decision was simple, it had to be cleared up to avoid the stench and the possible health hazard that it poses.

With that, Punta Gorda Mayor, Ashton Mckenzie gathered a group made up of a number of volunteers. On his Facebook page Mayor Mckenzie posted this: “where hands are many, burden is light. Beach Clean Up. It is indeed a pleasure to be engaged in such an initiative. Big respect to our partners Department of Youth Services. Community Policing Unit. BoneVille Community Church. Oceana. Residents of Punta Gorda Town.”

Posted By: Marty

Re: The Journey of the Sargassum - 04/23/18 08:07 PM

Grand Colony builds a beach by burying sargasso and using the sand to extend the beach area all the way into properties of the upcoming Alaia Boutique Resort and Banyan Bay Suites

Resorts Are Building Beaches With Sargasso

Setting the example in 2015, Dimas Guerrero took upon himself to build a beach with the sargasso that was accumulating on shore. Today, various resorts are mimicking Guerrero’s technique and applying it to their properties. It’s a very time-consuming and tasking process but one that produces great results - MORE BEACH!!

Take a look at the beach properties of Grand Colony Island Villas and Mata Rocks that are making strides in cleaning and building their beach after much erosion and now, sargasso accumulation. Grand Colony is digging large holes on the beach and filling them up with sargasso, using the excess sand to extend the beach area. Mata Rocks on the other hand is spreading the sargasso and covering it with sand; both techniques proving to be successful. These are just a couple properties that we have noticed lately showing gains over the sargasso problem. Most beach property owners and the Town Council are using the sargasso as landfill and even composting; putting it to good use.

Click here to read the rest of the article and see more photos in the Ambergris Today

Posted By: Marty

Re: The Journey of the Sargassum - 05/09/18 01:24 PM

Massive quantities of pelagic sargassum have come ashore in the Caribbean, impacting shorelines and beaches, waterways, fisheries and tourism. Coastal areas in Belize are no exception. The Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries Institute (GCFI) has created a poster with guide lines on how to manage sargassum on the beach.

We have to laugh at the positive attitude Lisa and Ronnie Cyrier took when they saw a new batch of sargassum rolling onto shore. "New game in San Pedro: Where's Ronnie???" They asked. LOL! Leave it up to this fun couple to make light of a stressful situation.

Ambergris Today
Posted By: Marty

Re: The Journey of the Sargassum - 05/23/18 08:04 PM

Belize is no exception to this natural phenomenon. A great article to read to understand a bit more about this prevalent occurrence taking place along our Belize coastline, in particular the cayes and penninsula. "Massive Sargassum Seaweed Bloom is Choking the Caribbean".

(An 1891 map proved by NOAA shows the regions of low and high concentration sargassum seaweed in the North Atlantic and Caribbean. Image source: NOAA — Teachers at Sea.)

Using Sargassum Drifts As High-quality Compost
A study out of Texas State University tracks the degree to which massive drifts of sargassum can be converted into usable compost. Tina Waliczek, Jen Sembera, and Erica Meier dedicated months assembling data along Texas beach communities where the presence of sargassum drifts are considered an invasive eyesore and have calculable ill effects impacting that region’s tourism industry. The results of their study are illustrated in their article entitled “Composting As An Alternative Management Strategy For Sargassum Drifts On Coastlines” published in the February issue of HortTechnology. The study used 12 cubic yards of sargassum as feedstock mixed with food waste and wood chips to create 72 cubic yards of workable matter. From this, the authors derived 25 cubic yards of stabilized compost. From that, they were able to test the quality of the resulting compost, and discovered sargassum-based compost was of either equal or higher quality than traditional or commonly sought compost; therefore its use in this manner proves to be a sensible way to manage the presence of this invasive species.

Posted By: Marty

Re: The Journey of the Sargassum - 07/23/18 10:12 PM

Mysterious masses of seaweed assault Caribbean islands

In retrospect, 2011 was just the first wave. That year, massive rafts of Sargassum—a brown seaweed that lives in the open ocean—washed up on beaches across the Caribbean, trapping sea turtles and filling the air with the stench of rotting eggs. “It presented immense challenges,” says Hazel Oxenford, a fisheries biologist at The University of the West Indies in Cave Hill, Barbados. Before then, beachgoers had sometimes noticed “little drifty bits on the tideline,” but the 2011 deluge of seaweed was unprecedented, she says, piling up meters thick in places. “We’d never seen it before.”

Locals hoped the episode, a blow to tourism and fisheries, was a one-off. But a few years later “it came back worse,” Oxenford says. Now, the Caribbean is bracing for what could be the mother of all seaweed invasions, with satellite observations warning of record-setting Sargassum blooms and seaweed already swamping beaches. Jim Gower, a remote-sensing expert with Fisheries and Oceans Canada who is based in Sidney, British Columbia, and his colleagues looked for spots on the ocean’s surface that reflected unusual amounts of near-infrared light, a part of the spectrum that plants don’t harvest. Data from May 2011 showed a huge patch of floating plants, presumably Sargassum, off the coast of Brazil—far to the south of its normal habitat. By September, it stretched from the Caribbean all the way to the coast of Africa, the team reported in 2013.

To confirm that the Sargassum fouling Caribbean beaches in 2011 came from the tropical Atlantic, east of Brazil, Franks and his colleagues traced the likely path of seaweed masses backward through time. First, they compiled records of locations where Sargassum came ashore. Then, using information about surface currents, they calculated its likely source. “Invariably, in all of those instances, it tracked back to the [tropical] region,” says Franks, who reported the findings in 2016. “None of it ever tracked northward into the Sargasso Sea.”

Click here to read the rest of the article in Science Magazine

Masses Of Seaweed Threaten Fisheries And Foul Beaches

If you've been to a beach this summer, anywhere from Texas to the Carolinas, you've likely seen it. Masses of brown seaweed, sometimes a few clumps, often big mounds, line the shore. It's sargassum, a floating weed that's clogging bays and piling up on beaches in the Gulf and Caribbean.

In Barbados, Hazel Oxenford says sargassum is more than a headache, it's a national emergency. Oxenford, a fisheries biologist at the University of the West Indies, says the seaweed piles up on the shoreline there 10 to 12 feet high. Even worse, she says, masses of the weed cover the water near the beaches.

"It creates tremendous problems for the natural ecosystems," she says. "We've had significant loss of endangered sea turtles that have actually drowned because they can't get to the surface because the sargassum above them is so high."

When large mats first appeared in the Caribbean, many thought it was from the Sargasso Sea, an area in the Atlantic north of the Caribbean. But Franks and other researchers traced the seaweed to a massive bloom that has appeared off the coast of Brazil. Ocean currents carry the seaweed up the South American coast into the Caribbean, where Franks says the impact on fisheries has been catastrophic.

Click here to read the rest of the article in NPR

Here is a podcast about Sargassum on "All Things Considered" on NPR

Mexican Caribbean sees sargassum barriers placed from Cancun to Chetumal

After a delay, the first sargassum barriers have been placed in the sea which will eventually run from Cancun to Chetumal.

The Secretary of Ecology and Environment of Quintana Roo, Alfredo Arellano Guillermo, says the government has begun working with the Chetumal company Goimar Logistics and Services with seaweed barrier placements in the sea.

“The project consists of the installation of a system of containment barriers that will be placed along 27 kilometers of the state coast from Cancún, head of the municipality of Benito Juárez in the north, to Chetumal Bay, head of the municipality of Othón Pompeyo Blanco to the south,” he said.

According to the development company, the containment line integrates tools used for the containment of oil spills and have been developed for the management of sargassum. The barrier is non-polluting and resistant to waves and is supported with seabed anchoring.

Once in place, the barriers will redirect the collected sargassum away from the coast. The company says the barriers are a technique for the control of natural and artificial marine contingencies. They are composed of a flotation system and polyvinyl coated canvas barrier with additives for ultraviolet ray resistance.

Once completely installed, 27 kilometers of barriers will float along the coast which will prevent a large majority of the seaweed from reaching the beaches. This project is the first one coordinated by a state government which in part, has resulted after numerous tourist complaints about the seaweed along the Yucatan coast.

The installation of the barrier system will include the municipalities of Othon P. Blanco, Benito Juárez, Solidaridad, Puerto Morelos and Tulum.

Riviera Maya

Minister Heredia speaks on sargassum

With the recent issues involving the overgrowth of sargassum along Belize’s coastline, many communities have been doing everything possible to not only clean, but to minimize the amounts accumulated on the seashores. Various communities such as San Pedro, Caye Caulker, Hopkins and Placencia are all battling with the seemingly never-ending incease of sargassum on their beaches. Minister of Tourism, Manuel Heredia Jr, and inhabitant of San Pedro, spoke on the issue.

Manuel Heredia Jr. Minister of Tourism and Civil Aviation: “We have a task force made up of DOE, Coastal Zone, Fisheries Department and our own people form the industry as to what will be the short term, middle term and long term for this one because we have seen rather than minimizing it; it is increasing. The amount that we are getting in the Belizean Coast Line is much greater than anytime in my 30 years of fishing that I did. I have never seen anything like that. It used to be three months now we cannot say how long it will last. It was predicted by scientist that it will finalize in the middle of August . We are now in September and we are seeing it rather than diminishing it is increasing so I had a visit to Placencia on Wednesday and I stopped by also at Hopkins to see.

He, however, states how pleased he is to see everyone working together and the plans that are in store to minimize the current problem.

Manuel Heredia Jr. Minister of Tourism and Civil Aviation: “I am glad of the initiative that stakeholders and the villagers are taking in Placencia. The second step to that is putting these curtains to protect. It will not be to stop it but to protect it before it reaches the beach so they are working on that and they will advise us and so on when they have all the information together. Like in San Pedro, Gran Caribe started with that already but it needs to be a team effort that all hotels will do to divert it and eventually it can go to an area where it doesn’t affect the industry.”


Working with Southern Enviromental Association (SEA) last week at Gladden Spit and Silk Cayes Marine Reserve, we came upon a huge field of sargassum. You can gauge the size by our boat in the lower left. What you see is about 1/4 of the total field even though the drone was at maximum height of 1600ft.

Photo and text by Tony Rath

Posted By: Marty

Re: The Journey of the Sargassum - 08/24/18 10:36 AM

It's a HUGE problem in ALL the Caribbean. While other countries seem to have it worse that here in Belize, it just got a bit more serious this week on Ambergris Caye. Here are pics shared by island residents Ilda Guerrero, Simon Backley and Araceli Blease on their Facebook profiles. WOW! Sargasso entering the Boca del Rio and moved all the way to the back lagoon as far as the New Sunset Boardwalk and Terminal.

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Ambergris Today FB
Posted By: Marty

Re: The Journey of the Sargassum - 08/26/18 12:17 PM

Sargassum continues to plague the Caribbean, including Belize; tourism industry affected

The Sargassum seaweed crisis continues to affect the coasts of many countries within the Caribbean Sea, southern Mexico, and the Central American region. Belize continues to struggle with its share, and efforts on Ambergris Caye to contain the non-stop influx have resulted in the removal of approximately 1,764 tons of Sargassum from the beginning of February to August of this year. The works by The San Pedro Town Council (SPTC), covers an area of approximately one mile, beginning from the public library, across the Roman Catholic Primary School, and north to the Sir Barry Bowen Bridge by Boca del Rio.

Local authorities have concentrated on removing the daily accumulation of Sargasso within the town core area, particularly on the Boca del Rio beach. SPTC personnel in charge of the clean-up stated that the community, particularly the business sector, has been helping to clean up other parts of the island, particularly in front of their establishments. However, all efforts to keep the island free of the seaweed seems to be fruitless. According to the maintenance department of the SPTC, they remove truckloads of Sargassum on a daily basis, but by the next day, the downtown beach area is full of seaweed again. Many businesses along the coast continue to be affected by Sargassum, which rots shortly after reaching the shores, expelling a strong sulfuric-odor from the decaying biomass. Several beach restaurants and bars say that their clientele has decreased due to the bad smell. “People seldom come to the beach, and if they do come, they do not stay long because of the bad situation with the Sargassum. We try to clean as much as we can, but the fight is hard against this seaweed,” said one concerned business owner. The issue has impacted not only the tourism business but also the marine life near the coastline. The thick Sargassum mats have on three different occasions this year, caused the death of hundreds of fish along the eastern coast of the island. According to the Hol Chan Marine Reserve, the seaweed consumes all the oxygen out of the surrounding water causing fish and other marine creatures in the immediate area to die.

In Mexico, from Cancun to Chetumal Quintana Roo, hundreds of thousands of metric meters have been cleaned with little success. Due to this massive influx that continues to threaten their tourism industry like in Belize, the Mexican authorities have come up with a plan to stop the Sargassum from reaching their shores. They have started a project consisting of Sargassum barriers to be placed from Cancun to Chetumal, resistant to waves and supported with seabed anchoring. It is expected that the barriers will redirect the collected Sargassum away from the beaches. According to the manufacturer, the barriers are a technique for the control of natural and artificial marine contingencies and are composed of a floating system and polyvinyl coated canvas with additives for ultraviolet ray resistance.

Click here to read the rest of the article and see more photos in the San Pedro Sun

Posted By: Marty

Re: The Journey of the Sargassum - 08/30/18 10:54 AM

Island resorts test alternatives to tackling the Sargassum epidemic

The business community on Ambergris Caye, particularly those by the beach, is being inundated day after day with large swaths of Sargassum that choke the shores of the island. Several businesses have hired additional staff to keep their areas clean with little success. The unusual bloom of seaweed has thus forced businesses to explore other alternatives to tackle the problem. Some beach resorts have constructed test barriers made of PVC pipes to prevent the floating seaweed from reaching their beaches.

Ramon’s Village has been experimenting for the past four weeks, with positive results. Manager Einer Gomez says the barriers seem to be working as expected, and their beach looks much cleaner compared to a few weeks ago. According to him, the barriers in front of the resort’s beach consists of four-inch PVC pipes, capped off to create buoyancy and a fiberglass mesh wrapped around the pipes. The mesh falls about 18 inches into the water and does not hit the seabed. Gomez explained that the barriers are held in place by 6’ X 6’ posts in the seabed.

This method is similar to what is being done at other resorts on the island, such as Grand Caribe, and Ramon’s customized the set-up to fit what works for them. “There is no real solution to the Sargassum situation, and ours is at an experimental stage,” said Gomez. “However, I believe that there has to be a communal effort for the problem to be alleviated.” Even though the barriers are doing a good job so far, wind, currents and the change in tides do affect the drift of the Sargassum, and some still manage to make it across the PVC pipes. However, those observations are being taken into consideration when making improvements.

Click here to read the rest of the article and see more photos in the San Pedro Sun

Posted By: Marty

Re: The Journey of the Sargassum - 08/31/18 08:11 PM

Sargassum hits Placencia

The beautiful beach of Placencia in Belize (Caribbean Sea) got hit by a catastrophic amount of seaweed. It’s not the usual one that is common and floating in every few years, it’s a toxic one that kills sea turtles and fish because of the lack of oxygen. It’s caused by the rising sea temperatures, fertilizers and oil drilling incidents. Belize is trying hard to protect our environment, including the ban of plastic like straws and bags and banned all oil drilling - and even surveys - in the ocean. But as long as rich countries don’t care about our planet, small and challenged countries like Belize suffer from the global ignorance.


Posted By: Marty

Re: The Journey of the Sargassum - 09/02/18 11:47 AM

Is Sargassum hazardous to our health?

The San Pedro Sun spoke to Eric Najarro, Administrator at the Dr. Otto Rodriguez San Pedro Polyclinic II about the possibility of increased illnesses due to the Sargassum. Although Najarro stated that there is no conclusive evidence that island residents are displaying symptoms of toxicity, he cautioned that inhaling small doses of the gas can trigger irritation of the eyes, respiratory issues and nausea, especially among at-risk people. The groups at risk are asthma patients, elderly people, babies and pregnant women. Certain animals, especially dogs, are also sensitive to the inhalation of hydrogen sulfide. He further cautions to avoid swimming in Sargassum infested waters as it can lead to skin irritation.

One island resident shared that every time she’s near the beach, she starts coughing and feeling bad. “My eyes get irritated and I even get a slight headache,” she said. In addition to hydrogen sulfide causing health issues to human and animals, the poisonous gas in the air also leads to oxidation of copper, steel and other metals.

The common effects of inhaling low concentrations of hydrogen sulfide (10 ppm or less) are burning eyes, coughing and shortness of breath. Repeated or prolonged exposure at low concentration levels can cause eye inflammation, headaches, fatigue, irritability and insomnia. Exposure to moderate concentration levels of hydrogen sulfide can result in severe eye irritation, severe respiratory irritation (coughing, difficulty breathing, and fluid in lungs), headache, and nausea, vomiting, and imbalance. Effects of exposure to high levels (100 ppm or higher) of hydrogen sulfide can be serious and life-threatening with effects that include shock, convulsions, inability to breathe, rapid unconsciousness, coma, and even death.

Click here to read the rest of the article and see more photos in the San Pedro Sun

How sargassum is tainting the waters close to shore on Ambergris Caye. It's accumulation has caused some dead zones as dead juvenile fish continue to be spotted along the beaches. Hoping we don't start seeing larger marine animals dying like in Florida. Already the smell of Hydrogen sulfide is a nuisance for residents. Sargassum's negative effects are widespread. We know other countries in the Caribbean have it worse. Counting our Blessings; working on possible solutions...

Huge Amounts of Sargassum Invade San Pedro’s Beaches

For the past months, Caribbean and Latin America countries have been feeling the negative effects of massive amounts of Sargassum which have washed up along the coastlines. Tons of Sargassum have covered Belize’s beaches including those in San Pedro and in Placencia. The decaying Sargassum not only releases a foul odor, but also a hydrogen sulfide gas which is known to cause harm to humans and animals when inhaled in large amounts.  The Sargassum phenomenon is causing detrimental damage to the tourism industries in the region and threatens the economies. In Belize, the Sargassum Task Force, which was formed in 2015, has been reactivated to address the issue, but before they do so, they need to understand its impact.   News Five’s Hipolito Novelo takes a closer look at the impacts of the Sargassum invasion.

Manuel Heredia Jr., Minister of Tourism

 “It is a great concern. I think it is an emergency at this point.”

Hipolito Novelo, Reporting

From a bird’s eye view, large mats of Sargassum can be seen being carried by the Caribbean Current en route to the coastlines of many Caribbean and Latin American Countries like Belize. The Sargassum phenomenon has been affecting the region since 2011 but recently these massive blooms of the brown microalgae have slowly crept up on pristine beaches. Tons of the seaweed have invaded the beaches of San Pedro, Ambergris Caye. The unpleasant smell many describe as a ‘rotting egg smell’ and the sight of the decaying Sargassum have caused many businesses along the beach to lose customers. For Blue Marlin’s, the Sargassum is causing a detrimental economic effect on its ability to attract paying patrons.

Kevin Locario, Employee, Blue Marlin’s

“The tourist actually really complain about it because if you notice we have the verandah right there and what happens is that they sit there and they cannot enjoy the ambiance because it has a bad smell. They do not really enjoy being here and having a nice drink or having nice food or something. A lot of us have lost business because it is a small town and a lot of us are friends who own business and a lot of us have the same complaints.”

Blue Marlin’s employee Kevin Locario’s task to convince customers to stay becomes nearly impossible with the lingering stench of the dead Sargassum. English Tourist Donald Bishop says the incredible amounts of Sargassum have made his vacation experience different.

Donald Bishop, Tourist

 “It’s getting worse this time. It’s the worst I have known it.”


Hipolito Novelo

“What’s the situation in Caye Caulker?”

Donald Bishop

“The situation in Caye Caulker is exactly the same. There is probably more there. They are trying to clean it up but it is too much.”


Lindsey Hackston has been operating Belizean Art, a jewelry and gift shop situated on the beach, for thirty years. Since the beginning of the year, Hackston has been burning incense to fight off the stench of the sargassum.  It has not worked and recently, Hackston realized that the toxin released in the air by the decaying Sargassum is wreaking havoc on her pieces of jewelry.

Lindsey Hackston, Owner, Belizean Art

 “The gold plated and the silver plated it actually corrodes and some of the jewelry we had to throw out. So our jewelry display has been really badly affected and our sales. A lot of it we have just stuffed in draws. We don’t even want to bring it out. You can see over there-over cabinet turned black. Even the beadwork from the indigenous Maya, some of that has turned black as well. It is terrible. I don’t know what is going to happen.”


Tourism Minister Manuel Heredia Junior says Belize’s tourism industry accounts for thirty-eight point eight percent of the Gross Domestic Product. The Sargassum is causing significant losses to the tourism industries across the region. In some Caribbean countries, major hotels have had to close down due to the massive amounts of Sargassum that have washed up along the beaches, transforming crystal clear waters into an unattractive, smelly and brown shade.

In 2015, A Sargassum Task Force was created to address the problem. That task force is responsible for creating a national plan and looking at regional initiatives to adapt in order to successfully implement best practices as a way to lessen the negative effects. The task force recently met to address the Sargassum problem with regional assistance.

Manuel Heredia Jr.

 “Twenty percent of that amount we got in Belize but eighty percent is in the Western Caribbean and Mexico also. That is the reason why we have to work together not only locally. I believe when we meet at the SICA level, ministers of tourism, we will have to try to see how to address this issue together with our neighbors. It is not a matter just locally but regionally to try to see what can be done. I can recall in my fishing days we did use to have the Sargassum but it was for a short time, probably three months and it was over. This year has been the worse of the worse in the history of my fishing days until now.”

As the amount of Sargassum keeps piling up on the beach, the negative effects it has on the tourism sector in San Pedro Town is mounting. In the meantime, the San Pedro Town Council has workers cleaning up the beach but this temporary and sluggish solution to the Sargassum invasion is not enough. Workers like Abdonazzer Habeb Hajjara spend about eight hours a day trying to clean up as much of the beach using pitchforks and wheelbarrows.

Abdonazzer Habeb Hajjara, Worker, San Pedro Town Council

We take it out and put it in wheel borrow and we put it into piles then we have a tractor put it in a dump truck. They take it to fill lots, properties and thing.”

Hipolito Novelo

“Is it difficult?”

Abdonazzer Habeb Hajjara

“It is not difficult but it is heavy because of the water only that when it starts to spoil it starts to think.”

Hipolito Novelo

“It stinks really badly. How do you handle it?”

Abdonazzer Habeb Hajjara

“We are already used to it.” 

Besides being foul, decaying Sargassum is toxic to humans and animals. It releases hydrogen sulfide gas and depending on the quantity inhaled, the poisonous and colorless gas can cause nausea and respiratory difficulties especially in at-risk individuals such as those who suffer from asthma. Several factors are combining to create the perfect conditions for these massive Sargasssum blooms. Large mats of Sargassum for some marine life but for others, it’s fatal. Recent fish kills in San Pedro have been attributed to the Sargassum which is known to destroy habitats for fishes, sea turtles, and birds. The Sargassum also hampers the ability of fishermen to find food. It is capable of destroying boat propellers, engines, and fishing equipment. So where is it all coming from? And what is causing it?

Beverly Wade, Fisheries Administrator

It is a phenomenon that is occurring because of many factors; global warming, upwelling. It is actually coming all the way from the Brazilian shelf.”

Janelle Chanona, Vice President, OCEANA Belize

You have scientist finding out that the types of dispersants specifically one called Corexit that was used in the BP oil spill to have helped create a very nutrient-rich environment. You have climate change, global warming, and higher sea temperatures globally causing the sea to be warmer and therefore more conducive to these massive blooms. It’s a natural ecosystem so it is floating in seas around this part of the world. What’s happening is that because the water, the temperature, everything else is making it bloom it’s kind of coming from everywhere at the same time which is why it is getting to crisis level in many countries.” 

Many countries are looking for alternative use of the dead Sargassum. San Pedro residents are using it for landfill.

Beverly Wade

One of the things that they are looking at directly right now is landfill, composting. Some people in the region are looking to see if there are other uses for it in terms of feeds, animal feeds and things like that. But one of the biggest things that people are doing right is just using it as landfill.

San Pedro is not the only part of the country that is being affected. In Placencia the villagers have come together to address the issue. The Sargassum is causing further beach erosion in Hopkins Village and Belize City is seeing its first wave of the Sargassum assault. Reporting for News Five, I am Hipolito Novelo. 

Channel 5

Placencia Villagers Battle Sargassum Invasion

Tonight we have part two of our report on Sargassum.  Aside from San Pedro, residents of the Placencia Peninsula are battling with the awful stench of decaying Sargassum that has piled up along the beaches.  Massive amounts of the Sargassum seaweed are covering miles of beach, posing a threat to the local tourism industry and the survival of many businesses that depend on the tourist dollar.  In the peninsula, beaches are eroding and the Sargassum has prompted villagers to come together to address the problem. News Five’s Hipolito Novelo reports.  

Hipolito Novelo, Reporting

One of the top tourist destinations in Belize, the Placencia Peninsula sees tens of thousands of visitors every year. This year there is a threat to the local tourism industry and the livelihoods of hundreds of families who depend on tourist dollars. The threat comes in the form of a brown, foul and invasive macroalgae- Sargassum. Tons of it have washed up along the peninsula. It’s an eyesore. The decaying Sargassum reeks and it can cause health complications among humans and animals.

Jodie Yearwood Leslie, Treasurer, Placencia Village Council

“The dead Sargassum serves no purpose other than really just becoming a horrific problem for the village. The stench is horrible. It becomes toxic because the dead Sargassum puts off a gas called hydrosulfide which eventually is very dangerous because if you have anything that is made of metal, silver it turns it black in a matter of minutes. So if it is doing that then you can imagine what it is doing to our insides but our volunteers are sacrificing everything because we want our village cleaned up.”

The Sargassum is affecting the entire region. Several factors have created the perfect environment for a massive Sargassum bloom. Placencia villagers banded together earlier this month to collectively address the problem by digging a trench along the beach and dumping the dead Sargassum in as landfill.

Jodie Yearwood Leslie

They are basically pulling in the seagrass with pitchforks and buckets and shovels. They are putting it on the trench. We are then covering it back over with the sand to try to use as a landfill. We are to help the erosion by doing so. The brown Sargassum that you are seeing there as we are raking it in, there is a lot of controversies saying that you are going to disturb this; you are going to disturb that. The right of the matter is that there is nothing to be disturbed. Once the Sargassum turns that brown and is that close into shore everything in it is dead.”

As for the live Sargassum, boats and nets are being used to haul and steer it away from the peninsula.

Glen Eiley, Concern Resident, Placencia Village

We are taking old shrimp nets and we are putting on some buoys on the top and some legs on the bottom and then try to pull it beyond that island. When that happens we have a wide open area that is just going to go and end up in the gulf somewhere. We are in a pretty good geographic layout that once we move it from out shore it will then drift away.”

Massive amounts of the Sargassum are still present. The dead Sargassum is so dense that people can walk on top of it. It’s about five feet deep and causing major beach erosion.

Glen Eiley

“What is happening, the water is not breaking. It’s not lapping our shores so it does not build the sand. It comes from the underside and undermines the beach. So whenever we have a Sargassum bloom like this and piles up on our beach, we have major erosion. I am not an engineer by any trait but I was born and raised here and I have seen Sargassum all my life but never ever in my life, I would have imagined that this is what we have to contend with.”

Laurene Holcomb owns the White Horse Guest House in Hopkins Village and like many of the tourist-oriented businesses; Holcomb has been losing income due to the Sargassum invasion.

Laurene Holcomb, Owner, The White Horse Guest House 

“It is awful. The guests that come to stay with you, it was clear the other day. You can’t even tell them when it will be bad and of course, it hurts their vacation. It is a sad thing.”

Hipolito Novelo

“Do you lose business?”

Laurene Holcomb

“Yes, of course.”

Glen Eiley

“We have to come up with a long-term strategy, the entire Caribbean, the entire country. So everybody is calling on the government right now. We know that they do not have the resource to throw at everybody but if someone would come in and give us the assurances that we will stand behind you.”

Jodie Yearwood Leslie

“I have had several people leave on the boat going to Honduras. They looked at us at the BTIA office and told us that we can’t stay here. Your beaches are not good. We understand that it is not your fault but we want to go somewhere where we can swim and that is not happening here. So if we lose our tourism or the delay of our tourism right now because of this means we are losing income. If we lose income and we lose our tourist, the government, therefore, loses a good share of their income.”

Government Minister responsible for tourism, Manuel Heredia Junior recently visited the peninsula. He says that the issue will be addressed on a regional level but in the meantime, a net will be deployed at sea to stop the Sargassum from reaching the shore.

Manuel Heredia Jr., Minister of Tourism

“It is a great concern. I think it is an emergency at this point. They will be putting a curtain along the stretch of the area that is being affected. It is a little expensive but together I think we can accomplish that. Or there are other ways that are looking at the alternative use of the material.”

OCEANA Vice President, Janelle Chanona says that the Sargassum has many alternative uses including in the culinary arts.

Janelle Chanona, Vice President, OCEANA Belize

“Earlier this year we saw restaurants in the Placencia community, they were putting it into food. It is a natural biological entity. They were using it in sauces and I think they were using it in breakfast dish and they use it as a sauce for dinner. Apparently, it is delicious. We have seen people using it as fertilizer. We have seen it dried out and created into protein powder to add to your shakes and different things.”

The influx of Sargassum came with an amount of garbage; plastic and styrofoam cups and plates are among the trash.

Janelle Chanona

“We need to be looking at what we are putting into the ocean because what we are putting out into the natural environment, air and sea, is causing what we are seeing. Climate change is contributing towards this, the fact that so much pollution is getting into waterways and eventually into the sea. Even here at home, we are putting things directly into the sea that in no way should be there, grey water, effluence, sewage, and everything is going into the sea. Every action has a reaction and this is nature’s reaction to say well,’ you have to deal with this now’”.

Formed in 2015, the Sargassum Task Force met recently to create a strategic plan to deal with the problem. Reporting for News Five, I am Hipolito Novelo.

Channel 5

From a friend in San Pedro

Microplastics are in the sargassum. It is filled with plastic that breaks down during composting into smaller microplastic pieces. It is so pervasive that it's impossible to pick out. I have composted a LOT of sargasso, not again. I have microplastics all over the garden. I would never feed this sargasso to live stock either.

Posted By: Marty

Re: The Journey of the Sargassum - 01/28/19 11:42 AM

After record Sargassum influx, CRFM initiates fact-finding study in CARICOM States with support from Japan

The Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM) has initiated a regional fact-finding study to document the record-breaking influx of Sargassum seaweed in the Caribbean Sea in 2018, and the impacts this phenomenon has been having on countries in the region since 2011.

The fact-finding survey is funded by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), that has coordinated official development assistance from Japan to CARICOM States for over two decades.

Over the past 7 years, massive Sargassum influxes have been having adverse effects on national and regional economies in the Caribbean, with substantial loss of livelihoods and economic opportunities, primarily in the fisheries and tourism sectors. Large Sargassum influxes had been experienced in this region in 2011, 2014 and 2015, but it reached unprecedented levels in 2018, with more Sargassum affecting the Caribbean for a longer period of time than had previously been observed.

It is estimated that clean-up could cost the Caribbean at least $120 million in 2018. The CRFM Ministerial Council adopted the “Protocol for the Management of Extreme Accumulations of Sargassum on the Coasts of CRFM Member States” in 2016. The protocol has been guiding the drafting of national Sargassum management protocols for Grenada, St. Kitts & Nevis, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines, with support from the CC4FISH project, an initiative of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

In the coming weeks, the CRFM Secretariat will lead extensive consultations with key national stakeholders in the public and private sector, including interests in fisheries, tourism, and environment, as well as with coastal communities and other related sectors. Remote surveys and field missions in select Member States will provide a broad knowledge-base on exactly how the phenomenon has been affecting the countries.

Through the project, the CRFM will identify heavily affected areas, the time and frequency of extreme blossoms and accumulation of Sargassum, the quantity of accumulation, and elements associated with it, such as the species of fish and types of debris. A review of the history and scope of the impacts (both positive and negative) will be conducted and the extent of financial losses quantified. The CRFM will also identify research and countermeasures taken by the national governments, regional organizations, research institutions, and other development partners and donors. Finally, the study will suggest actions and scope of support that Japan may provide to help the countries address the problem.

During the study, the CRFM will engage other regional institutions such as Caribbean Community Climate Change Center (CCCCC), the Centre for Resource Management and Environmental Studies at the University of the West Indies (CERMES-UWI), the Caribbean Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology, (CIMH), the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO), the Caribbean Agriculture Research and Development Institute (CARDI), and the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) Commission. The CRFM will also engage development partners which have been doing Sargassum-related work in the region, including the FAO, UN Environment Regional Coordinating Unit, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and IOCARIBE, the Sub-Commission for the Caribbean and Adjacent Regions of Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC), an agency of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

According to the CRFM, Sargassum influxes disrupt fishing operations through gear entanglement and damage; impeding fishing and other vessels at sea; reducing catches of key fisheries species, such as flyingfish and adult dolphinfish; changing the availability and distribution of coastal and pelagic fisheries resources; and disrupting coastal fishing communities and tourism activities.

However, this challenge has also inspired innovative interventions, and opportunities for revenue-generation include value-addition through the production of fertilizers, pharmaceuticals, animal feed, and biofuel. The CRFM notes, though, that the financial or other benefits remain to be quantified.

The Sargassum phenomenon is believed to be driven by several factors, including climate change and increased sea surface temperature; change in regional winds and ocean current patterns; increased supply of Saharan dust; and nutrients from rivers, sewage and nitrogen-based fertilizers.

Posted By: Marty

Re: The Journey of the Sargassum - 04/07/19 11:06 AM

Sanitation personnel at SPTC notes a decrease in Sargassum influx

After weeks of constant accumulation of Sargassum on the eastern beaches of San Pedro Town, the Sanitation Department at The San Pedro Town Council (SPTC) is reporting a decrease in the influx of this seasonal seaweed on the island. Over the past weeks, large areas of the Boca del Rio strip were inundated with large amounts of Sargassum affecting many business establishments along the coastline. Beach hotels have also been affected. However, they have opted to set barriers in front of their beaches in an attempt to keep their areas free of the seaweed.

The sanitation personnel at the SPTC stated that the situation has been very challenging over the past three weeks. They are glad to report that as of Monday, April 1st, they noticed a significant decrease in the presence of the brown seaweed. They told The San Pedro Sun that it a similar situation last year that affected the Easter Holidays. “Most people ended up heading to Secret Beach because our front beaches were saturated with Sargassum,” one of the sanitation employees said. “We hope that this decrease continues through the Easter Holidays this year, and we can enjoy the front beaches.”

A couple of resorts on the island have invested in floating barriers in front of their beach areas to contain the seaweed. According to them, it is working so far and hopes that one day a permanent solution can be discovered to end the unwanted seaweed. Presently on Ambergris Caye, Sargassum is being used as landfill. However, this method is not encouraged as medical experts in the past have warned of the health hazards the stench of this marine plant can cause as it decays. In a previous interview with The San Pedro Sun Dr. Javier Zuniga, who then worked at the Dr. Otto Rodriguez San Pedro Polyclinic II, decaying Sargasso produces hydrogen sulfide and bacteria that can result in mild skin rash or irritation. He added that it can also cause the eyes to be irritated, and those who are sensitive are most at risk, including babies, the elderly, and those with breathing complications.

In the meantime, the natural phenomenon, which affects the entire Caribbean has been attributed to the overabundance of high nutrient levels in the ocean and the increased temperature of the water. This has been traced to the inappropriate disposal of industrial waste and agricultural runoff by developed countries, which causes the seaweed to thrive. The Sargassum that continues to plague Belize is believed to originate from South America, where nutrient-rich run-off from industries and agricultural fertilizers into the sea is taking place due to heavy deforestation. All this flow of nutrients into the sea makes it ideal for the rapid amassing of Sargassum. As the mats grow larger, currents take the seaweed to the Caribbean region, where the warm waters add to an even better environment for its survival and growth. This constant increase in its bloom has been recorded since 2014.

Click here to read the rest of the article and see more photos in the San Pedro Sun
Posted By: Marty

Re: The Journey of the Sargassum - 05/02/19 07:45 PM

Sargassum is back in the region

A huge tide of sargassum has once again invaded shores of the Caribbean, including some of Mexico’s most popular beaches.

But despite the magnitude of the problem, the federal government has not allocated the funding that has been requested to deal with it.

According to the Cancún sargassum monitoring network, 30 countries, territories and protectorates are forecast to receive massive amounts of sargassum, including Mexico, the United States, Cuba, Honduras, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Belize, Colombia, Panama, Haiti, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Jamaica and the Bahamas among others.

So far in Mexico, the beaches of the Riviera Maya in Quintana Roo have been the hardest hit, including Playa del Carmen, Tulum, Cozumel, Puerto Morelos the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, Othón P. Blanco and Bacalar.

Cancún Mayor Mara Lezama said the sargassum problem was especially serious because of how quickly the macroalgae often accumulates on beaches within just a matter of hours.

Sargassum conditions as of Tuesday morning, from low to moderate, abundant and excessive and indicated in green, yellow, orange and red.

[Linked Image]

Click here to read the rest of the article and see more photos in the Mexico News Daily


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Sargassum Flow Expected Worse Than Last Year

According to the monthly reports of the Optical Oceanography Laboratory of the School of Marine Sciences of the University of South Florida, intended to provide an overview of the current flowering condition and the probability of future flowering of sargassum for the Caribbean Sea, the conditions for this 2019, are greater than those of last year for the uptake of these marine algae.

The Sargasso Surveillance System based on the satellite of the University of South Florida warns that 2019, will be on a larger scale, which has alerted authorities at the Caribbean countries, including Mexico.

In the report for the month of January the extension of flowering in 2019 is still significantly greater than in most of the years from 2011 to 2018 for the Caribbean and the Central West Atlantic. For this reason, they point out that this 2019 is likely to be another important flowering year and for which, the corresponding measures must be taken to address said overflow.

More in the Ambergris Today
Posted By: Marty

Re: The Journey of the Sargassum - 05/15/19 12:32 PM

Short video which explains the Sargassum problem. Check it out and learn a bit. Sargassum explained by George Buckley, Harvard University Extinction School. Here are the cause of Sargassum bloom and what we need to do.

Posted By: Marty

Re: The Journey of the Sargassum - 05/16/19 12:10 PM

The Sargassum Situation

We have featured stories on the sargassum plague countless times on this newscast. In the beginning of this year, we told you about CRFM's fact finding study to find out how and why it is affecting the Caribbean. Well, while that study is being conducted, residents on the ground in Belize especially on the islands and coastal communities have to deal with the unsightly heaps and unbearable stench of the sargassum as it accumulates and decays on the beach.

As you can imagine, it's having a direct effect on the tourism product and properties. We spoke to the Reservations Manager at The Palms Ocean Front Property on San Pedro and she told us that it is getting harder to control and it is jeopardizing their business.

Ana Ico, The Palms Ocean Front Property Reservations Manager
"Well San Pedro has a real serious problem with Sargassum because first we used to have enough sargassum and people used to use it for landfill but now the amounts are really a lot that now we don't even have the human resource to come and get it off the beach as quickly as we would like it to be off and not only that when it starts to decompose or rotten, then you have that smell and of course people are allergic to it and they start coughing and that stuff, all our metals start getting black and so it is affecting us a lot especially on our beaches because they are starting to erode. I don't know if you walk the beaches it is starting to erode a lot and I have never seen our beaches in front of the Palm's as bad as they are now."

"The tourists want to come here to enjoy the beaches and if you go there right now you can't enjoy the beaches because it is piled up and what they do is go on the west side of the island and try to go to spots that are there instead of staying where they are and paying that amount of money to get that view and the beach so you know it is affecting us both ways."

"What I know is BTB had asked us to take a percentage of the tax that is what we use to pay the people to rake the beach and take away the sargassum, however mother nature seems to be real mad at us so it is more than we can actually handle with what we have right now."

Ico says the sargassum is worse on the north side of the island.

Ministers Seeking The Sargassum Solution

Area representative for Belize Rural South, Manuel Juniour Heredia has to deal with this issue on the ground and at the policy level. He says it's only going to get worse on the ground, and that's why regional tourism ministers are meeting urgently at the end of this month to discuss solutions:…

Mexico's Riviera Maya along the Yucatan Peninsula is also reporting a major influx of Sargassum.

Channel 7

Belize, Caribbean in Danger as Sargassum Invasion will be Much Worse

In 2018, News Five took a look at the crippling effects of sargassum, a brown, foul and invasive microalga. In October of last year, the Ministry of Tourism and the Belize Tourism Board worked on a plan to deal with the influx of sargassum which began affecting at least four top tourist destinations in Belize. While it was thought that 2018 was bad in terms of the sargassum invasion, 2020 is looking to be the worse year yet. Researchers from the National Autonomous University of Mexico warned on Tuesday that the Caribbean is at risk. This morning, Tourism Minister Manuel Heredia Junior confirmed that a regional meeting will take place later in the month in Cancun where a regional plan will be created to address the problem.

Manuel Heredia Jr., Minister of Tourism

“Our understanding is that the prediction this year will be worse than last year. We will be meeting in Cancun, all the ministers from the entire Caribbean and Mexico on the twenty eight to come up what is happening on each others’ grounds and to see what will be an overall solution to this. Just like the making sargassum block, and gas but that is some infant stages but we have to come up with other formulas. It is something that it is not caused by human being but probably human error that caused it to happen. But it is there and we have to make sure that we do the best out of it. It is helping a lot like in San Pedro where low areas are being field but that is not the solution. B.T.B. and government have partnered and we have been helping the industry with that two person which translates to twenty percent actually, dollar wise to be able to help our industry. Hopefully we will have to do that again. It also puts a heavy strain both at B.T.B. and government because those are monies that you earmarked for others, probable marketing and so, but you have to use to alleviating the problem but the problem is there. If we don’t take care of it then the industry will suffer.”

Channel 5

Ambergris Caye and the region once again threatened by Sargassum bloom

On Ambergris Caye, one of the areas frequented by tourist is the Boca del Rio strip and has become inundated with Sargassum making it unattractive and affecting all business establishments located on this stretch of beach. The mounds of decaying seaweed are causing a dent in the economy for the restaurants and bars along the beach. The stench of the Sargassum has led many visitors away from the eastern beaches of the island, where the problem grows every day with fresh seaweed arriving every night. According to a researcher at the University of Florida ISA, the Sargassum seaweed bloom will top the amount recorded in 2018. It is believed that this will take place, depending on environmental conditions and nutrient availability. The university researcher warned that the most immediate impact would be in the Caribbean region.

The Sanitation Department of The San Pedro Town Council has been struggling with the situation and were happy to notice a decrease before the Easter Holidays in April of this year. The current situation has them preparing on how to tackle the wave of seaweed. They stated that the Sargassum invasion is becoming a very complicated situation, and they can only hope that the influx will slow down. Meanwhile, a couple of resorts on the island continue to use floating barriers in front of their beach areas. The results have not been as favorable as hoped, as the increase in the arrival of Sargassum has overcome the barriers and is reaching their beach areas.

Click here to read the rest of the article and see more photos in the San Pedro Sun

The collection and proper disposal of sargassum in coastal communities in the Central American and Caribbean regions is a challenge to local governments. On Ambergris Caye, it is no exception. Local government officials are working from several fronts to address the natural phenomenon that is causing serious concerns. Here are the details.

Expert says the sargassum situation in the Caribbean Sea is very serious
Dr. Brigitta Ine van Tussenbroek, researcher at the Puerto Morelos Arrecifal Systems Academic Unit of the Institute of Marine Sciences and Limnology of the UNAM, said that the sargassum situation in the Caribbean Sea is very serious, as the spot now extends along the eastern and northern coasts of the Yucatan Peninsula. The expert, a doctor in biology and ecology of seagrass and macroalgae by the University of Liverpool, forecasted the massive arrival of sargassum to the Mexican Caribbean six months ago, based on studies from the University of Florida. “We have no idea of ​​the capacity of resilience of the environment before this event, the amount of this type of organic matter is growing exponentially; the biogeochemistry of the systems is changing completely, “ said Dr. Brigitta.

Posted By: Marty

Re: The Journey of the Sargassum - 06/05/19 04:35 PM

Bricks made from Sargassum

Craft brick made from sargassum is being used to construct homes in the Mexican Rivera Maya.

Happy to know the council is taking steps to try and replicate what is being done in Mexico as a more sustainable way of collecting and use the microalgae that keeps washing up on our beaches.

Jorge Aldana

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The war against Sargassum

For years, Central America and the Caribbean have been plagued by the presence of the dreaded Sargassum. This brown algae first started affecting Belize on the coast of San Pedro, creating a foul odor as it accumulates and rots at the water’s edge.

Since as far back as 2015, reports have made it to the public about the Sargassum’s rapid spread to other areas such as Caye Caulker, Hopkins and Placencia. In neighboring countries the phenomenon has grown to alarming levels and destinations such Quintana Roo have even declared the situation to be an imminent natural disaster.

The main concern regarding the continuous spread of the algae is the potential effects it may have on Belize’s tourism industry. Despite there not being a confirmed, quantified impact on tourism arrivals and length of stay as a result of the presence of Sargassum, it is still a concern that eventually it may become too much for visitors who come to Belize to enjoy clean beaches and crystalline waters.

Cabinet has taken into consideration the potential threats to hoteliers with sea-front properties and even introduced some relief measures, such as the 4-month hotel tax relief for all beach-front hoteliers, which took effect at the end of 2018.

Other initiatives such as the ongoing beach cleanup projects have been implemented in various tourist hotspots and the government has designated over $1 million to aid these projects. There have even been tariff (duty) exemptions approved by Cabinet for all equipment being imported for Sargassum clean-up and reduction initiatives.

Collectively, these assistance measures by the government have benefited hundreds of property owners in the affected areas. There are other entities as well which have made contributions to contain the spread of the Sargassum such as the Sargassum Task Force, NEMO, BTB and even the National Meteorological Service of Belize.

The task force is trying to incorporate technology in their fight against Sargassum, and have provided small insights on their intentions to stage a Boom Installation Pilot Test in San Pedro to see if this would be effective in reducing the effects of the Sargassum.

A containment boom is a temporary floating barrier normally used to contain an oil spill, which protects shorelines from pollution. The Sargassum Task Force, in collaboration with the National Met Services and the Department of Civil Aviation, is tasked to study the drift patterns of the Sargassum in order to create a forecasting system in Belize.

Reports are currently being disseminated every Wednesday to Friday during the local weather forecast on the news. Further development of this project could lead to Belize being the first nation in this region to have a local Sargassum forecasting system.

The abundance of the algae has negative effects on both aquatic animals and plants. The death of fish has been noticed on the beaches of San Pedro, caused by the reduction of oxygen levels due to the bacteria that decompose the Sargassum in the water.

There is also a reduction of sunlight penetrating the water due to the canopy that these blankets of Sargassum cause, affecting the process of photosynthesis for aquatic plants and coral. Apart from this, Sargassum has been known to cause a foul odor and skin irritations when one becomes directly exposed to it.



The National Sargassum Task Force

The National Sargassum Task Force was established to find solutions to the current problem of the sargassum in the Tourism industry. We spoke to representatives about sargassum and the disposal measures they are working on to remove the inconvenience to hoteliers and beach-goers. On our couch:
Abil Castaneda - Chief Tourism Officer, Ministry of Tourism and Civil Aviation
John M. Burgos - Executive Director, BTIA
Posted By: Marty

Re: The Journey of the Sargassum - 07/05/19 10:53 AM

Scientists found a seaweed patch stretching from the Gulf of Mexico to Africa

Fertilizer runoff is likely fueling an explosion of seaweed in the Atlantic.

[Linked Image]

There’s a mass of seaweed in the Atlantic Ocean that last year, at its peak, was so large it stretched all the way from the Gulf of Mexico to West Africa. It’s the biggest bloom of seaweed ever recorded, according to a new paper published in Science. And it’s likely another example of how human activity is radically changing the surface of the planet.

The giant seaweed mass is both expansive and heavy, weighing a whopping 20 million tons last year. It’s comprised of a macroalgae species called sargassum, a brown seaweed that forms little bubbles that look a bit like grapes. Large volumes of it washing ashore can be a pain for beach tourism.

Those bubbles allow the seaweed to float on the surface, which in turn lets scientists track its distribution over time. The brown hue of the seaweed on the surface of the water can be seen by satellites.

Satellite images have revealed that over the past 20 years, the mass of sargassum on the surface of the Atlantic has exploded dramatically. The following chart shows the density of sargassum in the Atlantic every July (the month when sargassum blooms peak) from 2011 on. You can see in July 2018, it was the densest, stretching clear across the ocean.

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The study authors call it the great Atlantic Sargassum belt, and suspect it’s likely the result of more nutrients, mainly nitrogen and phosphorus, running off the West Africa coast into the ocean in the winter. The belt is also being fed by the same nutrients, from fertilizer runoff and deforestation, running off into the Amazon River and into the ocean in the summer.

The sargassum responds to those extra nutrients like many plants would: It eats them, and grows. The bloom sizes also continue to grow every year because there are sargassum seeds left over from the previous summer.

[Linked Image]

So far, it’s looking like another huge Sargassum bloom is underway this summer. Many beaches in Mexico are currently blanketed in the stuff. (It costs Mexico’s beaches millions a year to deal with the increasing growth of the seaweed.)

The seaweed, historically, has been mostly confined to the Gulf of Mexico and a region of the Atlantic called, well, the Sargasso Sea. It’s a region encircled by ocean currents which keeps its ecosystem a bit separated from the rest of the Atlantic.

[Linked Image]

And the sargassum is an important component of that ecosystem, as NOAA notes:

Turtles use sargassum mats as nurseries where hatchlings have food and shelter. Sargassum also provides essential habitat for shrimp, crab, fish, and other marine species that have adapted specifically to this floating algae. The Sargasso Sea is a spawning site for threatened and endangered eels, as well as white marlin, porbeagle shark, and dolphinfish. Humpback whales annually migrate through the Sargasso Sea. Commercial fish, such as tuna, and birds also migrate through the Sargasso Sea and depend on it for food.

But it started to spread around 2011, especially in the central Atlantic, with the uptick of nitrogen and phosphorus flowing into the ocean from South America and West Africa.

The new excess of sargassum is not a good thing. It floats onshore, rots, and smells like sulfur, making it a pain for beach tourism in the Caribbean and in Mexico. When it dies in the ocean, it can sink, and possibly harm corals. Dense groves of sargassum can also trap and harm sea turtles.

“The ocean’s chemistry must have changed in order for the blooms to get so out of hand,” Chuanmin Hu, a University of South Florida marine scientist who led the Science study, said in a press statement.

In a lot of ways, this story isn’t unique. In many, many waterways — including lakes used for drinking water — fertilizer runoff induces incredibly large blooms of (often toxic) algae. Last year, a “Red Tide” bloom of algae killed at least a hundred manatees, a dozen dolphins, thousands of fish, and 300 sea turtles off the coast of Florida. It was all the result of an algae called Karenia brevis growing in mass and releasing a neurotoxin.

In 2015, a toxic bloom of blue-green algae in Lake Erie left half a million people without drinking water. In the Gulf of Mexico, runoff from the Mississippi River often leaves “dead zones” — where, ironically, a boom in algae growth sucks up all the oxygen in the water and everything, including the algae, have to flee or die.

The bottom line: More and more of our refuse is getting into the ocean, and other waterways. And it’s leaving a huge mark.

Posted By: Marty

Re: The Journey of the Sargassum - 07/31/19 06:33 PM

[Linked Image]
Cancun’s beaches (Photo:

The Mexican Caribbean: 2,000 rooms emptier today than a year ago

The Mexican Caribbean shows this 2019 an average of 2,000 occupied hotel rooms less than in the same period last year. According to Jorge Hernandez, president of the Mexican Federation of Tourist Associations (Fematur), the main destinations of Quintana Roo have recorded a drop in hotel occupancy of between 2 and 4.8 percentage points, which means an amount of between 1,000 and 2,000 rooms less. Hoteliers have already lowered prices by up to 25% to try to maintain last year’s occupancy levels. However, it seems that the idea is not yielding the expected results.

As for sargasso, the main problem that is hitting the tourism industry in the country, Vanegas denies that the scenario is a “tourist catastrophe” and says that this year the state government expects to collect up to one million tons of this seaweed, 100% more than in 2018. “The tourists who come this summer will be our best spokepersons on how beautiful the beaches of Quintana Roo are,” said Vanegas, who also noted that the images posted on social networks do not coincide with those of the current situation.

However, tourists do not think the same as the official. A hotel worker from Playa del Carmen explained that tourists are deceived with photos that do not match the real situation. “In the agencies they show them pictures of I don’t know how many years or months back, and tell them: look,the beach is clean, there is no problem. And it’s not true. That’s why, when they arrive here, they tell us: ‘It’s not possible, you deceived us’. And for that, they stay one night and the next day they say thank you and go quickly to another place,” said a hotel employee, according to Animal Político.

“Tourists arrive thinking they are coming to the turquoise waters. And yes, the turquoise water is there, but it is one mile away from the beach. You have to pay for a tour or a boat to get there and enjoy it, because while standing on the shore, you can’t bathe in the sargasso,” said another resident of the area.

The sargasso problem is causing the hotel sector to reinvent itself with alternative options to maintain occupancy levels. After lowering rates between 15% and 25% to try not to lose tourists, now Riviera Maya hotels choose to temporarily move guests to other accommodations of the same chain or even others, where the beaches are clean of sargasso.

Click here to read the rest of the article in the Yucatan Times


Sargassum has been a concern not only for Belize, but our regional countries as well. Check out the video below for more information on how Belize is tackling the issue and how you can help, too.

For more information on Sargassum, visit our webpage here:
Posted By: Marty

Re: The Journey of the Sargassum - 08/15/19 12:27 PM

Is Sargassum the Solution for Cheap Landfill?

Saragassum - it's piling up on beaches all across Belize by the tonne - and no one knows quite what to do with it!  

In San Pedro they're using it as landfill - in a new development in an area south of San Pedro town known as the Mosquito Coast.  

That's a novel idea - but being on the coast, it could also pose threats to the environment.  And that's why today, we were surprised to learn that no Environmental Impact Assessment has been done, nor has an environmental compliance plan been drafted.  

Area Rep, Junior Heredia spoke spoke about finding a balance between environmental conservation and the developmental needs of San Pedro's growing communities.

"I think it's the general area of the west to the Mosquito Coast area. What can you tell us about that development there? I believe there's massive clearing of Mangroves, there's filling in of the lagoon sea area with trash and Sargassum. What do you know about that development?"

Hon. Manuel Heredia - Minister of Tourism and Civil Aviation
"Well I know particularly one, there is one private one that I cannot give you information on that particular one because I don't know if they applied for a permit or they went through the necessary procedures and I believe that it is for the owner of SP hardware limited. I cannot give you information; I myself was quite amazed when I saw that operation over there. And yes, Sargassum is on the abundance throughout the coastal areas of Belize and that is being used as fill to try to build it up to a certain height and after that they would put probably sand or white mall or other types of material to make it more liveable. So, that part I can tell you because it was an initiative from myself together with the government, with the permission of government, to issue those 22 lots over there. And the first 7 that were issued are practically filled with the Sargassum and you will see shortly that it will be filled with a cap of either white sand or mall."

"Did you guys clear any mangroves for those subdivisions to take place?"

Hon. Manuel Heredia
"Yes, in those areas there are parts of it that had low mangrove and then we had to clear it off."

"Did you guys get an ECP or an EIA to conduct that kind of clearing?"

Hon. Manuel Heredia
"Well you know for a small subdivision like that if there. I do not consider, as a past fisherman and as a person who has worked with a lot of resorts in San Pedro, I don't consider that massive or anything 22 lots is not a huge amount over there. So, whenever you will do massive things then. That is when you will need to do a EIA or whatever or when you will huge projects like hotels then there is need of those type of things, but for something small to be able to assist your poor residential people like that there has to be a little flexibility. When you're going to do massive yes there is a need for it but again. In life is real they say and as a country grows as a community grows there is a need for expansion and then rent on the island is expensive. So, you will have to try to accommodate your residents with some low income residential lots and remember there has to be a balance in anything. So, you have to sacrifice a little in order to provide something for your people otherwise where will you put them."

"I also know concerns about trash also being used, posing supposedly concerns for health. I know there are reports made in the newspapers out there on the island."

Hon. Manuel Heredia
"Definitely not on these ones I can guarantee you. You can take a look yourselves. Everything that they are using over there is Sargassum. So two things are happening you are cleaning your beaches because there is not a proper place to dispose of Sargassum. So, when you have these low residential areas like that, even in areas like San Juan and San Matteo and so they are using that because it is in abundance. We are a tourism destination and we cannot leave tons and tons and tons of Sargassum on the beach lying over there smelling bad. We rather take it into this place to make sure that you can assist your poor people and you can make your areas more beautiful."

Channel 7

Addressing the Sargassum Phenomena

Huge mats of sargassum continue to gently make its way into this region and ultimately to pristine beaches. The sight and the smell of sargassum have negatively impacted tourist hotspots in the country. The invasive brown algae is causing harm on local ecosystem. In Belize the sargassum has slowly crept on to several beaches in Placencia and San Pedro. A Sargassum Task Force was created to deal with what is expected to be an annual challenge. The Department of Environment sits on the task force and Chief Environmental Officer, Martin Alegria says that a long term plan must be devised in order to prevent further damages to the environment and economy.

Martin Alegria, Chief Environmental Officer, D.O.E

“The more temperature you have the more rich nutrients that rich the seas, that is what creates these sargassum blooms. How we go about addressing that that is a hell of a task because that is a global scenario. Right now with the “small amounts” coming on mainland Belize, even the little amounts that we are experiencing is costly, very costly, prohibited sometimes to address. Imagine what will happen five, ten years from now when temperature raises more and you have more blooms and more tons coming on stream and more frequent. Right now we have lulls. In the next ten,, twenty years if we continue the way we are these sargasssum blooms will be daily and instead of you spending a thousand dollars to clean up your side of the beach on a weekly basis it will be ten thousand dollars. We are a member of the Sargassum Task Force. We have been collaborating with them in trying to suggest solutions, do piloting with these booms that try to trap. We have to plan from now. We have experience now what we have in terms of cost for cleanup, the tides, and wind direction. Those things that we have to take into consideration and plan accordingly, set aside some funding for perhaps beach cleanup.”

Channel 5

Posted By: Marty

Re: The Journey of the Sargassum - 09/04/19 12:09 PM

Sargassum study around Caye Caulker encourages further human intervention to address this environmental issue

An investigation into the effect of Sargassum in the marine environment surrounding Caye Caulker was conducted by a team comprised of members from the Belize Coastal Science Alliance and the Ocean Academy High School. The project aimed to find out the magnitude of the Hypoxia (low oxygen conditions) believed to be the result of rotten Sargassum. As such, the project also studied the comparison between areas on that island that have and have not seen human intervention. At the end of the research, and according to the findings, it was concluded that the area receiving human intervention had higher oxygen levels compared to areas that did not. This result advocates the initiative that removing the Sargassum from near shore water areas does reduce the impact to local marine life threatened by the large mats of this brown seaweed accumulating on coastal areas.

During the project, seven sites were inspected throughout the island: one site on the leeward side and the other six spread across on the windward side. These sites were docks, including docks at Tarpon, Caveman, San Pedro Belize Express, Tropical Paradise, Margarita Mike’s, la Isla, and Blue Sea. Every day and at the same time, measurements were recorded at the base of the dock. Each site had a point A and B. Point A was at the point just far enough from the beach to be at approximately one foot of water to allow the instrument to read. Point B was at the end of the dock. A scale was pre-planned to denote the level of built-up of sargassum as it extended horizontally from the beach. The scale used categories of width and stages of rot. The investigation reported that Sargassum accumulated against the beach floating at surface level with bright golden yellow color was classified as early decay. Midwater or neutrally buoyant sargassum, light brown in color or with a dusted look was considered mid-stage decay. Sunken, dark brown sargassum and disintegrating material were classified as late-stage decay.

Click here to read the rest of the article in the San Pedro Sun
Posted By: Marty

Re: The Journey of the Sargassum - 10/08/19 12:04 PM

Sargassum mapping empowers tourists
Sargassum Monitoring compiles and maps images that show the sargassum impact across the region. One map shows beaches with sargassum and a separate map shows beaches without sargassum. With sargassum-forecasting tools still in development, the maps offer one of the most comprehensive and up-to-date snapshots of the seaweed situation in the region. The work requires extensive research and hours of time by a team of volunteers who check regional webcams, search the internet and cross-check information submitted by users. Some areas, such as Cuba and Haiti, are more difficult to monitor than others. The team also runs into difficulty when monitoring webcams are shut off, at times to hide influxes of seaweed.

Posted By: Amanda Syme

Re: The Journey of the Sargassum - 10/08/19 12:23 PM

I read the article but didn't see a link to the mapping site.
Posted By: Pokey

Re: The Journey of the Sargassum - 10/08/19 02:51 PM
Posted By: Amanda Syme

Re: The Journey of the Sargassum - 10/09/19 02:16 PM

Thank you
Posted By: Marty

Re: The Journey of the Sargassum - 11/24/19 11:57 AM

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Sargassum; out of sight but not out of mind

Waves of Sargassum that washed up in large mats on the shores of many countries within the Caribbean, southern Mexico, and Belize, have significantly decreased, giving way to clear coastlines with beautiful sandy beaches. Ambergris Caye’s eastern coastline is once again showing off her sandy shoreline, making the island an ideal place to vacation once more. Sargassum season is known to be from April to August each year, but according to reports, it could start flooding the region as early as January 2020. The year 2019 has been one of the worst recorded for the seaweed invasion, and predictions for 2020 are uncertain as Mother Nature is quite unpredictable.

According to Hol Chan Marine Reserve’s Executive Director Javier Paredes, the decrease of its presence is due to the change in the season, with the winds blowing in a south-eastern manner. The winds blow the seaweed away from the Belizean shores, but in late March, when the wind changes, we can expect Sargassum on our beaches. At this moment, it is uncertain its impact, but he believes that if global warming and the runoff of nutrients into waterways continue to increase, the blooms of Sargassum could be greater.

According to satellite imagery, most of the Sargassum affecting the Caribbean, Southern Mexico, and Belize is growing between the coast of Africa and Brazil. This is according to Dr. Brian Lapointe at the Florida Atlantic University in the United States of America. This area has been dubbed as the Great Atlantic Sargassum Belt and is rich in nutrients originating from run-off from the Amazon River in South America. Another factor that is helping Sargassum to grow uncontrollably is the fact that there are certain parts of the ocean, which are with nutritious water rising from the seafloor, contributing to the rapid growth of the algae.

Click here to read the rest of the article in the San Pedro Sun
Posted By: Marty

Re: The Journey of the Sargassum - 03/01/20 11:34 AM

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Algas Organics proposes solutions for combating sargassum

On Wednesday, February 27th, Algas Organics, in collaboration with the Belize Tourism Industry Association (BTIA), held a presentation for stakeholders on their solution for turning sargassum into something positive. The company was founded in 2014 by CEO Johanan Dujon, who led the presentation to hoteliers and business owners from the island. His proposal centered on conduction individual surveys to the affected areas and bringing their equipment to collect the sargassum and take it away for processing and conversion into fertilizer and bio-pesticides.

Dujon’s second proposal to the stakeholders was the possibility of opening a processing plant in Belize, which many agreed would be a great idea not only for the removal of the sargassum but also for creating employment for Belizeans. Glenford Eiley, Vice Chairman of the Belize Tourism Board (BTB), reached out to Dujon after he found out about the work Algas has done around the Caribbean region. He told The San Pedro Sun that he sees a tremendous opportunity and a viable solution to the sargassum with the proposals Algas presented.

Click here to read the rest of the article in the San Pedro Sun
Posted By: Marty

Re: The Journey of the Sargassum - 04/22/20 11:34 AM

NASA spots millions of tons of sargassum in Caribbean

Last month, NASA’s satellites captured images which showed almost clear seas in the Western Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico. However, photographs paint a completely different picture for the Eastern Caribbean, where a moderate amount of sargassum was recorded. Researchers believe the isolated batches could foreshadow what the Caribbean region should expect for the rest of 2020.

The bulletin continues, “In all [Caribbean] regions combined, the total sargassum amount increased from 1.6 million tons in February to [approximately] 4.3 million metric tons in March, similar to March 2015 (4.2 million tons) and March 2019 (4.7 million tons).”

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The crucial difference between 2019’s seaweed development and this year’s, is the location.

In 2019, the majority of sargassum in the area developed in the central and western Caribbean. However, this year the satellite images show the development in and around the lower Lesser Antilles.

“Looking ahead, the eastern Caribbean will see large amounts of sargassum in April to June 2020,” stated the bulletin.

USF states that Cayman and the wider western Caribbean can expect small to moderate amounts of sargassum leading into summer.

Click here to read the rest of the article in the Cayman Compass
Posted By: Marty

Re: The Journey of the Sargassum - 05/08/20 10:43 AM

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Sargassum slowly washing up on Belizean shores

The sargassum seaweed is slowly making its presence known on the windward shores of Ambergris Caye. According to satellite images, large mats have been spotted far out on the Atlantic Ocean, entering the warm waters of the Caribbean Sea, to then inundate the region with tons of the brown algae. Island authorities are aware of the looming threat and are considering the necessary precautions to deal with the matter if its presence escalates. Mayor Daniel Guerrero stated that a busy sargassum season can be expected this year. He indicated that his administration has a lot on its plate as they wade through the COVID-19 pandemic, but they are monitoring the sargassum edging its way to our shores. The algae has been noticed on the beaches in and around downtown, where it is slowly beginning to accumulate.

Compared to the same time last year, the arrival of sargassum seems delayed. By May 2019, mounds of decaying sargassum were causing a dent in the tourism economy across the region. Due to COVID-19, 2020’s tourism season might be considered over, but the sargassum will still affect the health of people and wildlife on the island. In March of this year, satellite images showed a large amount of sargassum floating on the Eastern Caribbean. According to researchers from the University of South Florida USA, that amount is more than two million tons of sargassum, which continues to increase significantly as it makes its way to the Western Caribbean.

Click here to read the rest of the article in the San Pedro Sun
Posted By: Marty

Re: The Journey of the Sargassum - 11/20/20 11:03 AM

Article on the problems and uses of sargassum on BBC...
Posted By: Marty

Re: The Journey of the Sargassum - 03/02/21 05:00 PM

Caribbean Sargassum Virtual Workshop To Benefit Belize

Sargassum Products for Climate Resilience to mitigate harsh impacts on Caribbean States - The Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM) and Plant & Food Research, a New Zealand Crown Research Institute, will host a virtual training workshop on Wednesday, 3 March 2021. The session—which will be conducted with the assistance of Prof Mona Webber of the Marine Science Centre, UWI, Mona Campus, Jamaica—will focus on techniques for harvesting, handling, species identification and processing of Sargassum seaweed for initial evaluation.

It will be attended by the four target countries for field work, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, and Jamaica, as well as other interested CARICOM States and organizations such as CARDI, CERMES UWI, University of Belize, the Caribbean Network of Fisherfolk Organization (CNFO) and IAEA.

The training supports the effective implementation of the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade-funded project entitled, Developing Sargassum Products for Climate Resilience in the Caribbean, due to commence in April 2021. In addition to the target countries, other CRFM Member States will benefit either directly or indirectly from the project, which aims to mitigate the environmental and economic impacts of Sargassum seaweed influxes in affected Caribbean countries through the creation of inclusive value chains.

Since 2011, periodic influxes of massive quantities of Sargassum seaweed have been entering Caribbean waters, resulting in substantial economic losses and adverse impacts on human and environmental health.

The Outlook of 2021 Sargassum blooms in the Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico, released by the University of South Florida Optical Oceanography Lab on at the end of February 2021 indicated that, “…the eastern [Caribbean Sea] will likely experience increased amounts of Sargassum in March and April 2021, while some of the Lesser Antilles Islands will continue experiencing beaching events on both their windward leeward beaches." It forecasted that the situation could continue into summer, with the overall bloom intensity possibly like that of 2019.

In September 2020, the CRFM entered into a 3-year collaborative agreement with Plant & Food Research, to address Sargassum seaweed influxes in affected Caribbean countries. Plant & Food Research and the CRFM are collaborating to explore the creation of new technologies and value chains from the Sargassum seaweed. The project aims to develop Sargassum-derived product prototypes and production processes, including a commercialization strategy to support its marketing.
Posted By: Marty

Re: The Journey of the Sargassum - 03/12/21 12:42 PM

The 2021 Sargasso outlook from NASA is HIGH.

Outlook of 2021 Sargassum blooms in the Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico

Feb 28th, 2021, by University of South Florida Optical Oceanography Lab ([email protected])

The maps below show Sargassum abundance, with warm colors representing high abundance. In February 2021, the Sargassum amount remained high across the central Atlantic. Large amount of Sargassum was observed in the Central West Atlantic (CWA, i.e., the region east of the Lesser Antilles in the maps below) while the amount in Central East Atlantic (CEA) decreased. Moderate amount appeared in the eastern Caribbean Sea (CS), while the following regions are still largely free of Sargassum mats: western CS, Gulf of Mexico (GOM), and Florida Straits. In all regions combined, total amount decreased from ~5.1M tons in Jan. 2021 to ~4.6M tons in Feb. 2021, similar to February 2019 (4.3M) but much larger than all previous February months except Feb. 2018 (10.3M).

Looking ahead, the eastern CS will likely experience increased amounts of Sargassum in Mar and Apr 2021, while some of the Lesser Antilles Islands will continue experiencing beaching events on both their windward leeward beaches. This situation may continue into the summer when Sargassum may be transported to the GoM. Overall, this year appears to be similar to 2019. We will keep a close eye on how Sargassum in the CS and the tropical Atlantic may evolve in the next two months. More updates will be provided by the end of February 2021, and more information and near real-time imagery can be found under the Sargassum Watch System (SaWS,

CLICK HERE for the full report
Posted By: Marty

Re: The Journey of the Sargassum - 03/19/21 11:35 AM

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IIt can be used to build roads with light traffic, sidewalks, among others. Photo: (Rosario Ruiz, Placeholder)

‘Sargacreto’, the new construction material made of sargassum

Cancun, Quintana Roo, (March 18, 2021).- “Although there is not much research regarding its use, sargassum is a new raw material that nature has provided us, and that can be used at an industrial level”, said Dagoberto Ruiz Lavín, director of Grupo Dakatso, when unveiling a new way of taking advantage the alga: the innovative Sargacreto.

He said that for years they have been working on finding ways to industrialize the algae, which for most is seen as a waste. For Sargacreto, the sargassum is harvested in the high seas: “the one that works for us is the living one, it is washed, the salinity is removed with biodegradable chemicals, we crushed it and then we dehydrate it using UV rays”.

This dehydrated sargassum is mixed with concrete in a concentration of 35 to 40 percent. The patent for this procedure is pending and the resulting material can be used to build roads with light traffic (such as hydraulic concrete or paving stones), sidewalks, blocks, joists, vaults, patterned floors, and perimeter fences. The material can also be used for public parks (benches, playgrounds, and green areas).

“This does not generate leachate into the environment, as opposed to the case when the algae is sent to a landfill, where it becomes a source of contamination of the water table, and causing damage to the environment,” he continued.

The project will evolve and they hope to continue producing on a large scale.

The Sargacreto project will go through an environmental audit process to obtain the certificate of responsible production, so the company will validate the entire production process, review what type of raw material and ingredients were used, that the machinery and infrastructure are 100% ecological, and how much waste it generates or if it produces greenhouse gases.

The Sargacreto will also serve to create artificial reefs: “we have documented that these pieces when placed in saltwater are able to regenerate the reef, the algae they contain allow marine life to grow.” Ruiz Lavín said that they are working together with a German company to install an industrialization plant in Playa del Carmen, with which they will process sargassum and when the seaweed is not in season, they will recycle PET.

Regarding possible participation in the Maya Train project, the interviewee recalled that for two years as part of the Puerto Morelos Protocol it had been planned to make sleepers and stations with Sargacreto, for which he hopes that his proposal to use this material in the federal megaproject.

“All the sargassum that has arrived can be implemented in some phase of the project: stations, waiting areas, benches, and I think it would be very positive because apart from that we would generate employment for the locals,” he said.

He explained that the crusher they use, manufactured in China, reduces the volume of treated biomass to 10 percent, which can also serve as fertilizer for green areas in hotels.

The Yucatan Times
Posted By: Marty

Re: The Journey of the Sargassum - 04/25/21 04:47 PM

For those of you that haven’t stumbled upon the satellite work the University of South Florida does in connection with NOAA on Sagassum monitoring and prediction, here is the link to their site. At the end of March they predicted that 2021 would be the 2nd worst year yet, or maybe the worst.
Posted By: Diane Campbell

Re: The Journey of the Sargassum - 04/26/21 11:58 AM

Thank you Brazil for disaster after disaster. Bolsinaro needs to go to his room and stay there. new leader please!!
Posted By: Marty

Re: The Journey of the Sargassum - 06/11/21 10:16 AM

Miguel Alamilla: According to the USF Optical Oceanography Lab, the Abundance of sargassum recorded in May in the Caribbean Sea and West Central Atlantic has set a new historical record. It is expected that the amount of sargassum in the Caribbean Sea will continue to increase during summer leading to more beaching events.


Outlook of 2021 Sargassum blooms in the Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico* May 31st, 2021, by University of South Florida Optical Oceanography Lab

The maps below show Sargassum abundance, with warm colors representing high abundance. In May 2021, the Sargassum amount continued to increase across the central west Atlantic (CWA) and the Caribbean Sea (CS), which also sets a new historical record for the month of May. Large amount of Sargassum was observed in CWA, i.e., the region east of the Lesser Antilles in the maps below, and in the entire CS. Moderate amount has been transported from the CS to the Gulf of Mexico (GoM), the Straits of Florida, and along the east coast of Florida following the Loop Current, Florida Current, and the Gulf Stream, respectively. Correspondingly, small amount of Sargassum was observed in the Straits of Florida and along the east coast of Florida with possible beaching events. On the other hand, significant beaching events may have occurred around most of the Caribbean nations and islands.

Looking ahead, 2021 will be another major Sargassum year, and the Sargassum amount in the CS will likely increase continuously into the summer, accompanied with more beaching events. Meanwhile, Sargassum transport to the GoM will also continue, indicating more beaching events in the Florida Keys and along the east coast of Florida. We will keep a close eye on how Sargassum in the CS and GoM as well as in the tropical Atlantic may evolve in the next two months. More updates will be provided by the end of June 2021, and more information and near real-time imagery can be found under the Sargassum Watch System (SaWS,

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Posted By: Marty

Re: The Journey of the Sargassum - 06/12/21 06:08 PM

Report from the Rivera Maya in Mexico (just to our north) – they have a color coded alert system and report removal in tons.

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As of June 9

An article out of Miami about the excess Nitrogen gas levels registered
Posted By: Marty

Re: The Journey of the Sargassum - 06/13/21 11:39 AM

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The influx of Sargassum on Ambergris Caye blamed for the death of juvenile fish

The persistent inflow of the Sargassum seaweed is taking a toll on juvenile fish around Ambergris Caye. As a result, vast amounts of small to medium dead fish are floating around the mangroves on the lagoon side of the island. Some of the species observed included pufferfish, barracuda, bonefish, reef fish, and young snapper. Sargassum is the main suspect as it makes its way through the mangrove channels that snake along our island borders. The Hol Chan Marine Reserve (HCMR) personnel is aware of the situation and is testing water in the different areas where the Sargassum accumulates. According to them, the oxygen levels near the island’s eastern coast and the lagoon side are low. This is catastrophic for juvenile marine species that grow and develop in these shallow waters.

Large amounts of Sargassum consume oxygen, leaving fish gasping for air near the shore and, in this case, shallow mangrove areas. The most affected are juvenile fish near the coast and mangroves and return to the open sea once they have matured. HCMR agrees with the observation of islanders like Elito Arceo, who believe that the fishing industry may be impacted if more juvenile species continue to be affected. Arceo said that fewer fish would make it back to the open sea if nothing is done, resulting in the decline of fish and lobster populations. Therefore, it is essential to find a solution to decrease Sargassum beaching on the island. Residents on the island are advised not to consume these dead fish which can be tainted with harmful substances.

Click here to read the rest of the article in the San Pedro Sun
Posted By: Marty

Re: The Journey of the Sargassum - 06/14/21 05:05 PM

The SPTC Sanitation Department has been working tirelessly to keep up with the Sargassum issue. The entire team has been assigned to address the issue.

San Pedro Town Council

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Posted By: Marty

Re: The Journey of the Sargassum - 06/24/21 04:28 PM

The Sargassum amount in the Caribbean will likely increase continuously into the summer...

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No Good News For A Sargassum Free Summer

According to the USF Optical Oceanography Lab, the Abundance of sargassum recorded in May in the Caribbean Sea and West Central Atlantic has set a new historical record. It is expected that the amount of sargassum in the Caribbean Sea will continue to increase during summer leading to more beaching events.

Large amount of Sargassum was observed in CWA, i.e., the region east of the Lesser Antilles and in the entire Caribbean Sea. Moderate amount has been transported from the Caribbean to the Gulf of Mexico (GoM), the Straits of Florida, and along the east coast of Florida following the Loop Current, Florida Current, and the Gulf Stream, respectively. On the other hand, significant beaching events may have occurred around most of the Caribbean nations and islands. Looking ahead, 2021 will be another major Sargassum year, and the Sargassum amount in the Caribbean will likely increase continuously into the summer, accompanied with more beaching events.

Click here to read the rest of the article in the Ambergris Today

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