Due to warming ocean temperatures in the Atlantic, there has been a significant increase in the amount of sargassum seaweed floating across the ocean. Strong currents and high winds have been pushing the sargassum across the Caribbean and onto beaches mostly on the windward side of Montserrat. Thankfully, our main recreational beaches have managed to escape these ‘floating forests.’Many species of sargassum have been identified to date; however, it is 'Sargassum natans' and 'Sargassum fluitans' that is most frequently affecting us in the Caribbean.
Photograph: Sargassum, brown algae (seaweed) at Marguerita Bay - Thurs June 7, 2018.
It is worth noting that shorelines heavily impacted by sargassum can become very dangerous for sightseers. It quickly becomes very much like quicksand, if you find yourself in a large deposit. Small children should be very closely supervised at beaches such as Marguerita, New Windward & Bottomless Ghaut; and adults should exercise extreme caution.
Sadly too much sargassum can make it complicated for nesting sea turtles to arrive at shore; and for hatchlings to reach the sea. Also, at risk is our coral reefs, these sensitive animals could be destroyed by the lack of sunlight reaching down to them.
For our sake we can only hope for a small storm or large northern swells to break up the huge sargassum barriers accumulating at our shorelines and disperse it back into open ocean. However, in the short term, we need to find out exactly what is causing this explosion of sargassum and implement creative solutions, as ‘One Caribbean,’ to resolve this problem. Failure to do so, and Caribbean tourism, especially on the windward coast of our islands could be over. As the rise of the sargassum phenomenon continues, a proactive public awareness plan is needed by regional governments, as to how we can manage the seaweed for the betterment and safety of all.
For now, we can only hope that the ‘golden tides’ will continue to stay away from Montserrat’s pristine beaches, but the forecast is concerning. Current, satellite images are showing the presence ofhundreds of thousands of square miles of sargassum now in the Mid-Atlantic, it’s heading our way.
Did you know? Sargassum is edible, it’s harvested to feed livestock too, and you can fry, boil, steam or dry it. It’s also useful in medicinal teas.
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