Caribbean shores clogged with record amounts of seaweed that are killing wildlife and hindering tourism

Forget sea monsters and tidal waves. The summer of beachgoers and fishermen is spoiled by something much less cinematic: record numbers of foul-smelling Sargassum seaweed flooding vast swaths of the Atlantic Ocean’s coastline.

Number of algae found in the tropical, central western and eastern Atlantic, and the Caribbean Sea and Gulf Mexico – in June amounted to 24.2 million tons. This is an increase from 18.8 million tons a month earlier and a record high.

“If you put all this biomass side by side, the whole area is equivalent to six times the area of ​​Tampa Bay,” said Chuanmin Hu, a researcher at Southern University. Florida who studied the phenomenon told DailyMail.com.

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The number of algae found in the tropical, central western and eastern Atlantic, as well as in the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico, reached 24.2 million tons in June. Sargassum has been spotted over the North Sound Cayman Islands.

“If you put all this biomass side by side, the whole area is equivalent to six times the area of ​​Tampa Bay,” Chuanmin Hu, a University of South Florida researcher who has studied the phenomenon, told DailyMail.com.  Lakes Beach (above) is covered in sargassum in St. Louis.  Andrew along the east coast of Barbados

“If you put all this biomass side by side, the whole area is equivalent to six times the area of ​​Tampa Bay,” Chuanmin Hu, a University of South Florida researcher who has studied the phenomenon, told DailyMail.com. Lakes Beach (above) is covered in sargassum in St. Louis. Andrew along the east coast of Barbados

The huge amount of sargassum on the beaches and near the coast has undermined tourism and the vital fishing industry of the Caribbean.

The latest update of the Sargassum monitoring network is shown. gentlemenshows that there are currently 18 beaches in Mexico with excessive seaweed.

The situation worsened so much that in July the governor of the US Virgin Islands, Albert Bryan Jr. declared a state of emergency.

In a statement, Bryan said “algae infesting our beaches could also cause business disruption and other negative financial impacts on our economy.”

For those hoping for algae-free Caribbean beaches in the summer, Hu advised not to get their hopes up too high and that mass Sargassum blooms in the waters are likely to become the

For those hoping for algae-free Caribbean beaches in the summer, Hu advised not to get their hopes up too high and that mass Sargassum blooms in the waters are likely to become the “new normal”.

A day later, President Joe Biden declared a state of emergency for the territory, citing the threat posed by clogged Sargassum desalination plants in the U.S. Virgin Islands to the territory’s fresh water supply.

When washed ashore, rotting sargassum not only smells terrible, but also poses a health problem: researchers say it can release toxic gases that can cause people to have heart palpitations, shortness of breath, dizziness and other symptoms.

In a 2019 article for the magazine The scienceA team of researchers found that Sargassum, which used to be predominant in the northern parts of the Atlantic, has become increasingly common in the south since 2011. Hu said there are several reasons behind this spread, including unusually strong winds and currents. year before.

The South Atlantic, with its abundant sunshine and nutrient-rich waters, has proved fertile ground for Sargassum, leading to the current crisis.

Although algae is detrimental to land-based industries, the UN Environment Program says that algae itself is not a problem, as it can provide a favorable habitat and food base for a variety of marine creatures, from crabs to dolphins and various marine animals. eels and fish.

Rather, they are “large floating mats that clog fishing gear and prevent navigation at sea, as well as mass washed ashore and subsequent decomposition, which causes great damage to people, ecosystems and the economy.”

Hu agreed that sargassum is mostly not a problem at sea, but said there is some evidence that massive amounts of algae could create a problem if massive numbers die and sink to the ocean floor, where they can suffocate coral reefs. . and other environments.

For those hoping for algae-free Caribbean beaches in the summer, Hu advised not to get their hopes up too high and that mass Sargassum blooms in the waters are likely to become the “new normal”.

Hu noted that sargassum has a variety of uses, from being made into fertilizer, bricks and tennis shoes to being added to salad – so maybe there’s some possibility in this crisis.

A carpet of Sargassum algae made its way into the northern channel and thickened along the coast of the Northern Cayman Islands.

A carpet of Sargassum algae made its way into the northern channel and thickened along the coast of the Northern Cayman Islands.