SPTC declares sargassum beaching a natural disaster - 09/26/18 10:59 AM
A collective effort is needed to address the issue
The San Pedro Town Council recognizes the massive natural disaster caused by the significant amount of sargassum that has been washing up on our beaches.
While we have experienced this phenomenon in the past, this has been the worst we have seen over recent years. Over the past months, the council has used all its resources available to ensure that our beaches are clean to an acceptable level. Nonetheless, this is now something that requires more than just efforts of the local government and as such the council is declaring this issue a natural disaster.
We urge our residents, as well as the business sector, the tourism sector, non-governmental organizations, government agencies and our national government to join our collective efforts in addressing this issue, both in the short and long terms.
In the short term plan, the San Pedro Town Council has secured the assistance of well-respected Belizean Marine Biologist and Consultant, Mr. Miguel Alamilla. He will guide our efforts in finding ways to mitigate against tons of sargassum that is beaching on Ambergris Caye. The SPTC has mapped out both a short and long term plan.
Continuing the short term plan, the SPTC is organizing a massive community clean-up campaign of our beach from Boca del Rio to the Mosquito Coast area. This event will take place on the 27th & 28 of September. We are encouraging all residents, businesses and organizations that have trucks, bobcat loaders, excavators and even manpower, to register their participation by Wednesday, September 26th at the offices of the SPTC.
It is our plan that all the sargassum will be removed from the beach, to be taken to a specified location where there is less human contact. The meeting point for the community clean-up campaign will be at the San Pedro Central Park at 6AM on both days.
On an initiative being led by Councilor Gary Greif; who has the portfolio responsible of the environment, the San Pedro Town Council and other stakeholders are also looking at several options as a long term plan that will minimize the sargassum from beaching on the island. These options include the possible acquisition of water deflection booms that would be placed at a 2/3 distance between the island and the reef. Both local and international technicians have visited San Pedro to conduct bathymetric and current flow studies. It is their belief that the placement of these water deflecting booms will prevent the sargassum from making landfall and instead current will take it pass the southern end of Ambergris Caye. Councilor Greif has been dialoguing with resort owners whom are in the process of purchasing similar type of booms, which in the future will be able to be part of the larger project.
It will take a collective effort to ensure that we keep our island clean, for both our locals and tourists to enjoy.
SAN PEDRO TOWN COUNCIL
Calling on All ‘San Pedranos’ to Help Fight Off Sargassum Attack
The San Pedro Town Council has declared the sargassum beaching a natural disaster and is calling on its residents to come out on Thursday and Friday for a massive cleanup. News Five has been following the sargassum attack on Belize’s beaches for weeks. Tons of the microalgae have washed up on beaches across the country, affecting not only residents but entire industries such as the tourism. While the sargassum phenomenon has been experienced in the past, but this year, it reached crisis proportions, eroding miles of white sandy beaches everywhere. A National Sargassum Task Force was established in 2015 at the onset of the problem, but years later, there has not been a solution. The San Pedro Town Council says it will take a collective effort to address the environmental disaster. News Five’s Hipolito Novelo reports.
San Pedro Town is in crisis mode with its council declaring the sargassum invasion a natural disaster which has washed up on the beach.
Gary Grief, Councilor for Environment and Tourism, S.P.T.C.
“It is absolutely a crisis which is why the Mayor, Danny Guerrero, has declared a state of emergency”
For the past months, sargassum- a brown microalgae- has been slowing creeping up on the beaches of la Isla Bonita turning one of Belize’s top tourist destinations into a vacation nightmare.
“Right now is the slow season so you can’t see the different between the tourist being here and the leeward side of the island. There is a place in San Pedro called Secret Beach. The vast majority of the tourists are flocking to Secret Beach given that it is in the leeward side Of the island, not affected by the sargassum. So the majority of the resorts, bars, the restaurants along the stretch of beach are being negatively affected because it is easy to sit down in a restaurant, smell the decomposing and say to go somewhere else.”
Several businesses like Ramon’s Village Resort have taken it upon themselves to fight off the sargassum. They have constructed and installed barricades made of nets and pipes to prevent the sargassum reaching the shore. Alive, the sargassum doesn’t pose much of a threat but once it reaches the shore it begins to decompose releasing not only a foul odor in the atmosphere but hydrogen sulfide which can cause health complications for town residents and tourists.
The San Pedro Town Council, for the past months, has been deploying cleaners along the beach, to remove the dead sargassum but it is simply too much for the council to handle on its own. San Pedro’s Town Councillor responsible for Environment and Tourism, Gary Grief, says that central government needs to step it as thousands of livelihoods and the fate of San Pedro’s tourism industry is at stake.
“The State of Emergency that was called is nothing short but a cry of help for Central Government to intervene. We need the different ministries to be involved, the Ministry of Health. We know that the decomposing which releases hydrogen sulfide is causing an increase of allergies in humans and animals. When it comes to the Ministry of Works, we need the heavy equipment to come here and help with the removal of the sargassum. When it comes to NEMO as well, like I said this is a natural disasters, the same way they respond to fires, flooding, hurricanes I believe the EOC needs to be called into action and respond to this. One department that cannot be left out is the Belize Tourism Board. San Pedro being the largest tourism for Belize, I think it is obvious they have to be here.”
But before that happens, the town council is calling on all residents, and volunteers to be part of a massive cleanup campaign on Thursday and Friday from Boca del Rio to the Mosquito Coast area.
“As we having a town wide clean up campaign tomorrow, the San Pedro Town council and the private sector, we are also looking at the long term solution for this. The most important thing that we need to do is prevent the landfall of the sargassum. What we are looking at the use of water deflection booms about two thirds of the way between the shore and the reef. The studies that have been taken are positive that once those water deflection booms that are out there the sargassum will stop and the current that flows slightly parallel to the reef will carry the sargassum to the south of Ambergris Caye and into mainland Belize.”
It is expected that the purchasing and installation of the water deflection booms will come at a hefty cost. Studies show that the sargassum problem will worsen in 2019.
“In 2015 the Sargassum Task Force was formed to specifically deal with this issue. We knew it was coming. Did we act late?”
“We did act late. That is why at the San Pedro Town Council we are aware of the task force. I believe that our town administrator has had a meeting with the task force but I am not the one to wait. I look forward to seeing everyone out there tomorrow and even more so when we get the long term solution out.”