Sargassum quantities expected to increase in parts of the Caribbean

Sargassum quantities expected to increase in parts of the Caribbean

The presence of Sargassum seaweed in the Caribbean Region has increased over the past few months and according to Antiguan Marine Ecologist Ruleo Camacho, this trend may continue to escalate.

Camacho, providing a report on the seaweed’s development over the first three months of the year, highlighted findings from the University of South Florida Optical Oceanography Lab, which tracks Sargassum blooms using satellite images.

Their findings suggest that the “total Sargassum amount continued to increase to about 9 million metric tons, representing the second-highest amount for the month of February. It has since decreased to around 6.5 million metric tons in March, which is unlike most previous years.

“This may be due to cloud cover in the Western Atlantic which could cause underestimation. The amount of Sargassum entering the eastern Caribbean Sea has continued to increase and this trend will continue in the coming months.”

Camacho highlighted a decline between February and March, similar to observations in 2018, a year that saw one of the worst Sargassum years on record.

Despite this, he revealed that “the total amount of Sargassum observed in March 2024 was above 75% of all previous Sargassum years.”

Given the significant amount of Sargassum in the Eastern and Western Atlantic and its general westerly movement, Camacho emphasized that the Eastern Caribbean region will likely continue to be heavily impacted in the upcoming months.

He, therefore, urged stakeholders to “stay vigilant as it relates to Sargassum, and to consider mitigation practices which affect Sargassum in a non-destructive way for the surrounding environment.”

He said that although solutions are being looked into, “Sargassum will continue to affect us all if we cannot collectively identify practices which reduce its negative impacts while still maintaining the quality of life both humans and the environment.”

“We must do more to ensure this planet we call home is treated with the respect it deserves,” he urged.

The Caribbean Islands, including Antigua, Barbuda, and Redonda, have been dealing with Sargassum seaweed since 2011.

Originating off the coast of South America, Sargassum blooms have affected the Caribbean Island chain with varying ecological and economic effects.

While Sargassum provides habitat for juvenile marine organisms and foraging areas at sea, it degrades upon reaching shorelines, leading to negative impacts. Recent studies have also shown that degrading Sargassum may contain heavy metals, such as arsenic and cadmium, which can be toxic to humans and animals.

  • PublishedApril 3, 2024

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