Excessive Seaweed Poses No Threat To The Environment

August 11, 2015

As mats of brown seaweed continue to wash ashore the island's coasts, the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) is advising the public that the occurrence of these seaweeds is a natural phenomenon and poses no threat to the environment or human life.

This Seaweed, (a type of open ocean alga called Sargassum); has been appearing along beaches in Jamaica, Barbados, Puerto Rico and Florida. It is only found in the Atlantic Ocean.

According to the Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries Institute (GCFI), Sargassum is an essential habitat for some species of fish and invertebrates and provides shelter and food to sea turtles and commercially important fish like tuna. Sargassum also plays a role in beach nourishment and is an important element in shoreline stability.

In recent months, mats of Sargassum have been appearing along beaches in Jamaica, Barbados, Puerto Rico and Florida. Previous records show that massive amounts of pelagic Sargassum occurred throughout the Caribbean in 2011 and 2014.

The GCFI reports that the recent influx of Sargassum is believed to be related to high nutrient levels and temperatures in a particular area of the Atlantic Ocean. Sargassum forms/ large mats and is transported by ocean currents towards and through the Caribbean; washing up on beaches in the Region.

Sargassum may be used as mulch or compost once the salt is washed out and it is mixed with manure. It is not to be used in food and drink.

As the mats of Sargassum decompose on the seashore, the process produces a smell that attracts insects. Leaving the Sargassum on the beach has proven to be the simplest and lowest cost solution practised for its disposal.

If it becomes necessary to remove the seaweed, NEPA is advising individuals to take special care not to remove sand from the foreshore and floor of the sea along with the Sargassum.

The following steps should be taken in removing the seaweed:

  1. Gather the seaweed into piles; away from the main beach area
  2. Turn the material occasionally to encourage drying so that the accompanying sand can be easily shaken off.
  3. Return the sand to the beach
  4. Dispose of the organic material either at an approved dump site or place in a composite.

Persons may also bury the seaweed on the beach.

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February 16, 2015