Minister of Maritime Affairs and the Blue Economy, Kirk Humphrey (centre backing) and officials watch a test drive of the new seaweed harvester at HMBS Pelican, Barbados Coast Guard today. (C.Pitt/BGIS)

A transformative part of Government ‘s seaweed response programme!

That’s how the addition of a seaweed harvester to the arsenal of the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and the Blue Economy has been described by Minister Kirk Humphrey.

Addressing the launch ceremony at the HMBS Pelican, Barbados Coast Guard today, the Minister recalled that sargassum seaweed was among the challenges Government faced two years ago and a plan had to be put in place.

While noting that Government spent almost BDS $300,000 acquiring the seaweed harvester along with a tractor and conveyor, Mr. Humphrey stressed this would help transform Barbados.

He said: “I think it is important for us to recognize that there are a few things we have to do right now. If COVID-19 hasn’t taught us anything then nothing will. We cannot continue with business as usual. So the first thing Barbados has to do is clean. And, the seaweed harvester is part of our cleaning up programme and we are going to deploy the seaweed harvester mostly along the early west coast and the south coast.

“…On the east coast we are going to continue to use mostly manual labour. We have about 75 people who are trained in how to handle the seaweed and we are about to deploy another 50, if not 75, to be able to start cleaning the seaweed [there].”

Noting that his Ministry has been very conscious about removing the seaweed in a responsible way so as not to take all the sand, Mr. Humphrey stated that it was “more about respecting one ecosystem, not trying to advance one at the detriment of another”

The new seaweed harvester during a ‘test drive’ at at HMBS Pelican, Barbados Coast Guard today. (C.Pitt/BGIS)

“I think we have been able to do that fairly well. We moved a significant amount of tonnage of seaweed over the last year. Certainly with this (the seaweed harvester) we will be able to move even more seaweed. So, we are going to keep Barbados clean,” he emphasized.

The Minister also stressed the need for persons to be much more innovative with the use of the seaweed.

While noting there had already been a lot of scientific work and studies on sargassum seaweed, he added Barbadians have shown how innovative they can be through the making of fertilizers, soaps and the Ministry’s own work on making energy.

Further underscoring the need for more innovation, Mr. Humphrey said: “Fishermen, for example when they were dealing with the seaweed they made adjustments to their fishing vessels. So, instead of throwing the net on top of the water; they put the net so that it floats just below the seaweed so that they could still catch the fish below the seaweed. They have also been able to do things to protect the propellers on the boats so it does not destroy their vessels.

“All of these things without anybody showing them…just innovating and responding, in a way, to issues and problems. So, I believe we are going to be able to be transformative. I think this part of our programme is going to be transformative.”

The Minister concluded by commending Ministry officials, the Barbados Coast Guard and the National Conservation Commission for leading the process and working to not only clean up the seaweed but to bring value to it.

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