Help Needed With Seaweed

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Sargassum deposits on a south coast beach.
(A. Miller/BGIS)

"All hands on deck!" That is the call that has gone out to Barbadians from the Coastal Zone Management Unit (CZMU) and the Department of Emergency Management (DEM) in the wake of large quantities of Sargassum seaweed washing up on our beaches.

At a press conference held yesterday, CZMU and DEM appealed to Barbadians to assist in the cleanup efforts of affected beaches.

"We are requesting agencies, businesses, [and individuals] that are finding high proliferations of Sargassum weed on beaches or fronting their properties to contact the [CZMU] office so we can get a better appreciation as to where we are finding these points of deposition," stated Director of CZMU, Dr. Leo Brewster, "This will help in terms of identifying areas of priority response should the need arise."

Deputy Director of CZMU, Dr. Lorna Inniss, explained, "Whereas it is normally an east coast phenomenon, now, because of the near shore currents and wave movements, [there are] some wrap around effect on the south and west coasts as well."

??As a result of the great increase in the number of beaches affected this year, CZMU is urging persons to report any large deposits of the seaweed. Areas that have already been identified include the Crane, River Bay, Dover Beach, Skeete’s Bay and Barclay’s Park.

Dr. Inniss stressed that the seaweed was not harmful, but it presented more of an aesthetic issue. "It is a natural phenomenon. So, we do not want to be cleaning every piece of seaweed off the beach. This is a living organism that functions within the ecosystem." She continued, "However, in areas where it may be impeding recreation or use of the beach, then we would want to try to do some maintenance to make sure that beach users are still comfortable."

While scientists are currently working to determine the cause of the phenomenon, which is affecting many other Caribbean islands as well, Dr. Brewster encouraged Barbadians to experiment by using the Sargassum seaweed for personal use.

After thorough washing and rinsing, some persons have reported using it on agricultural crops and in kitchen gardens and flower beds as a means of fertilization for the soil. "If you get the fresh seaweed, you can actually take it home, rinse it off a couple of times to get as much of the salt and sand out of it, liberally apply it to your kitchen garden and let nature take its course," recommended Dr. Brewster.

"In addition to that, there have been reports that it has been effective in keeping off the Giant African snail in some locations. Persons that may be suffering with that pest may be interested in trying it in their flower gardens as well, as a means of controlling and preventing [it] from further coming on to their property."

Attention was drawn to the possible effects the seaweed deposits would have on turtle nesting. "One of the things that we are facing is the fact that this is prime turtle nesting season. So, we are being very careful in terms of the types of mechanised equipment that can actually be used on the beach to prevent the damage to existing turtle nests," Dr. Brewster stated.

The CZMU is working alongside the National Conservation Council and the Sanitation Services Authority looking at each affected beach individually to determine the best action for a specific area. Since the washing up of the seaweed can occur continually several times a day, major cleanup efforts are only being focused on highly populated beaches.

alicia.griffith@barbados.gov.bb

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