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  • Amy Pilsbury


Updated: Jun 28, 2021

Sargassum is increasingly causing devastating effects for a variety of industries all over the Caribbean. From Mexico to the Dominican Republic, solutions are desperately sought after to find ways to deal with the tonnes of rotting seaweed which beaches every year.

(Photo: Jason Molle)

To find out more about some of the issues and how Sargassum effects small island communities, we spoke to Jason Molle on the ground in Nevis, a small, widely unspoiled island in the Caribbean where the seaweed is drastically effecting fishing activity. Jason is seeking a viable use for Sargassum that can be commercialised into a sustainable product, whilst removing the seaweed from the shoreline.

‘We have to do something, anything, with this weed other than to let it rot, stink up the beaches, and pollute the inshore marine environment.’

(Video: Jermaine Browne)

What are the main challenges of living with Sargassum influxes?

The biomass accumulating on the seashore, rotting and releasing obnoxious gasses which impacts tourism, the marine environment, local communities and hinders fishermen from launching their boats.

What processes are currently in place to deal with the problem in Nevis?

There are none, other than the Department of Marine Resources clearing a path for fishermen to launch boats, resorts and private landowners removing the weed, which is costly and not commercially viable. The seaweed also fills in the cleared land quickly so is very time intensive.

Who is effected most by the Sargassum?

The seaweed mostly effects coastal communities and fishermen in the area, especially those on smaller islands, although economic losses also effect the whole nation.

There are numerous reports of Sargassum causing problems to fishing boats including;

fouling propellers, entanglement of fishing equipment and navigations problems. The seaweed can also irritate skin and cause respiratory problems as it releases harmful gases when it decomposes.

Photo: Report on the development of a best practice guide for Caribbean fishers coping with Sargassum influx events

What are the people of Nevis hoping for in order to help with the seaweed?

We are hoping for a solution to turn this biomass into a usable sustainable product.

What do you hope for the future of the seaweed industry?

We would really like to identify a process that smallholding farmers and fisherman could use to process Sargassum weed into animal feed, fertilizer or fuel. This would be beneficial for both the removal of seaweed from the shore whilst also creating useful products for the community.

(Photo: Jermaine Browne)

Currently, there are no feasible solutions to the Sargassum crisis in Nevis and many of the other islands in the region and so research in the area is crucial to a sustainable future for many residents.

'Nevis is a beautiful island and it’s terrible to see the impact that the modern day scourge of Sargassum is having there. Originally called Oualie ‘land of beautiful waters’ by the indigenous settlers, the PhycoMexUK team are keen to help work with locals to get it back to its beautiful natural state.'

(Mike Allen, PhycoMExUK)

Last week, we joined over 90 other researchers to discuss some of the other research going on in the field, but the end goal remains clear. Sustainable, feasible solutions are desperately needed throughout the region, especially where communities rely heavily on the coastline for their economy.

Follow our progress and get in touch @PhycoMExUK

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