- Amy Pilsbury
NOT JUST MEXICO'S PROBLEM…
Updated: May 5, 2021
PhycoMExUK have been working to find solutions to the Sargassum crisis in Mexico, but Sargassum blooms are causing havoc all over the Caribbean. We have been working hard to make contacts and build bridges with those on the ground throughout the region, learning from others and identifying sustainable solutions to problematic blooms.
Sargassum barriers (Photo: Michael William, Dominican Republic)
We have spoken to individuals and groups working in Mexico to find innovative solutions to the millions of tonnes beaching each month along the Caribbean shorelines. So far, we have found some brilliant uses such as; Sargassum bricks, shoes, stationary, medicines and cosmetics. All fantastic projects, and all hopefully on the road to economic viability in the long-term for the region.
In the last few years, tourism in the Caribbean has taken a huge economic hit, declining by around 30% due to Sargassum influxes. Currently, it falls to seafront hotels and local beachside businesses to foot the bill for expensive clean-up operations to ensure their pristine beaches, which attract tourists to the area, are clean. Finding opportunities to ease the burden on the tourism economy is becoming increasingly important as the annual blooms continue.
We have been focusing our work in Mexico, however, a more extensive geographic approach may be beneficial. We were recently contacted by an Entrepreneur, Michael William who was in the Dominican Republic visiting a Sargassum processing plant which aims to turn excess biomass into Bio-gas, compost and even tableware!
The in-situ plant collects biomass by installing floating barriers which prevent the seaweed reaching the beaches and barges with auto-collection wheels and cranes which have the ability extract roughly 200 tonnes of Sargassum from the ocean every day. Such existing infrastructure on many of the Caribbean islands creates a wonderful opportunity for collaboration between local communities and researchers to find more commercially viable solutions.
Collecting Barge (Photo: Michael William)
The group stores the Sargassum and currently has set-ups to create bio-gas and compost using Sargassum biomass, but admit they often collect more seaweed than they can use.
Collection, Biogas, Sargassum Composting (Photo: Michael William)
These plates and cutlery are made with 50% Sargassum and are another great way to utilize an otherwise problematic seaweed.
Sargassum plates (Photo: Michael William)
It is evident that it is essential to identify a high value product in order to create a more commercially viable route and bring essential investment to the region, whilst easing the economic burden on local businesses. The end goal here would be a continuous process, collecting and processing Sargassum with a collection of marketable products which support the Caribbean economy whilst easing the effects which blooms have on the health of important marine ecosystems.
Collaboration is vital for the future of utilising problematic blooms which show no sign of letting up. PhycoMExUK will continue to work towards creating a brighter future for seaweed and pave the way for a sustainable future for residents across the Caribbean.
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