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The Adverse Affects of Sargassum in the Caribbean

30 Dec

The Adverse Affects of Sargassum in the Caribbean

Many vacationers and reporters have noted that a record amount of the brownish seaweed called sargassum is crowding the shores of the Caribbean. From Barbados to Puerto Rico and beyond, the algae blooms are causing significant problems for the islands.  

These problems are a major concern due to their impact on wildlife and tourism. 

Starting in May of 2022, the amount began to pile up on the shores and is now clogging the beautiful waters and killing the beaches. And the impact is nothing short of tragic. 

The Effects of Sargassum Overgrowth 

UF faculty member and Florida Sea Grant researcher Lisa Krimsky said the following. "This year has been the worst year on record. It is absolutely devastating for the region." 

So why use the words tragic and devastating to describe this algae bloom? Here is why. 

  1. The seaweed releases a toxic gas containing hydrogen sulfide, which affects those with asthma and respiratory issues. 
  2. Decaying algae alters the temperature of the waters. 
  3. It also disturbs the delicate pH balance of the water, which chokes the coral reefs and sponge populations. 
  4. Fishing communities struggle with the bloom killing off fish and clogging their engines. 

Also, there is an increasing concern for not only the fish but the endangered turtles as well. So what are the islands doing to resolve the problem? 

Seeking Solutions to the Sargassum Saturation 

Several island nations' governments are looking into creative ways to use the sargassum to sway the pendulum of adverse effects on the communities. 

There are many uses continually being tested, such as the following: 

  • Pharmaceutical uses 
  • Fertilizer 
  • Various food uses 
  • Construction materials 
  • Biofuel from ethanol 
  • Paper products 
  • Natural cosmetics 
  • Fat absorption 

And finally, sargassum bricks are being made to build homes. However, man and machine power are still needed to keep up with the collection and careful clean-up. Seeking creative ways to use the overabundance is a benefit, and it is a good start. 


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