Today’s major environmental concern in Barbados and wider Caribbean region is about excessive amounts of brown seaweed that keeps on washing ashore. The weed is accumulating faster than people can move it away. The major problem lies in its mutating capacity, which is undetermined and comes as a great nuisance. Sargassum seaweed (coined out from the name of The Sargasso Sea) accelerates the magnitude of the issue. The floating weed creates sand banks in the form of sharp steps while the multiplying seaweed is battering wedge into the sand. Rapidly accumulating amounts of the weed are casting murky pall on rough waters, and dirtying the shore (The Guardian 1).
The growing deposits of alga sargassum on the coasts of the Caribbean region have been reported since 2011. The weed adversely affects local fisheries, aquatic resources, waterways, shorelines, and local tourism. Alga (seaweed) is floating freely in the ocean without reaching the ocean bottom. Sargassum comes as nursery habitat and refuge for the species that migrate as well as habitat for about 120 fish species and 120 species of invertebrates. It is the source of food and shelter for endangered species, including sea turtles and many fish species. Prone to the flows of the currents, the sargassum spreads through and affects various locations across the Caribbean region during different times of a year (The Guardian 2).
Being a type of algae, Sargassum is free-floating seaweed unique to the Sargasso Sea while it harbors sargassum species called holopelagi. This indicates that in addition to free floating across the ocean, algae are capable of reproducing their vegetation on the high seas.
It produces adverse effect on marine life by endangering the species of nesting turtle and re-shaping the coastal landscape in the north and the south of Barbados. It forces swimmers get through the loads of floating masses of weed. Gently sloping shores at Bottom Bay turn into de-formed areas under the continuous pressure of sand while the sargassum seaweed is surging tides. In Consett Bay, the fishermen find it hard to navigate and steer their boats. The ever piling amounts of the moss affect the engines (The Guardian 3).
In addition to endangering marine life and particularly turtle population, the weed also comes as a growing concern to the tourists. As a relevant solution, some experts offer utilizing the seaweed for the purposes producing therapeutic items and benefiting local economy this way. Nonetheless, epidemic amounts of algae attributed to shifting oceanic pathways and currents, as well as climatic changes, have turned into a major problem so far. Some researchers hold that the piling algae on the shores are due to intense land-based nutrients and pollutants that wash away into the water. Any feasible proposals to counter the problem and its devastating effects seem helpless. The piling weed hits the economy of the region by discouraging tourists and devastating fisheries (Brown 1).
To eliminate the scale of the growing problem, local agencies should align their efforts and arrange sound communication with the locals, private sector, media, and tourists to establish clear policies and measures that would ensure regular clean-ups of the piles of decaying seaweed on the local beaches. Decisive measures are important to save the region and local economy from the influx of potentially growing natural disaster. The exploding extent and frequency of the algae seaweed mass has become alarming over the recent years.
Further investment and accumulation of strategic resources are needed to clear stinking piles of seaweed some of which have gotten up to staggering 10 feet already. Only strong regional effort and sound cooperation will renew the image of the Caribbean as must-visit tourist destination (Doyle and Franks 1-2).
- Brown, Desmond. Caribbean Hit Hard by Sargassum Seaweed Invasion, 2012, Web.
- Doyle, E. and Franks, J. Sargassum Fact Sheet. Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries Institute. 2015.
- The Guardian. Caribbean-bound tourists cancel holidays due to foul-smelling seaweed, 2012, Web.
- The Guardian. Why is so much brown seaweed washing ashore? 2015. Web.