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  • Brown seaweed, known as Sargassum, is seen washed up on a beach.

    Brown seaweed, known as Sargassum, is seen washed up on a beach. | Photo: Reuters

Published 13 June 2018

Satellite imagery detected a large amount of Sargassum seaweed floating across a huge section of the Caribbean and the Atlantic Ocean.

Satellite observations indicate that 2018 may bring a record-setting deluge of seaweed in the Caribbean. The brown-colored genus, known as Sargassum, first came settling on beaches in the region in 2011, presenting lethal obstacles for sea turtles and bringing a stench of rotten eggs that hampered local fisheries and tourism.

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“It came back worse” a few years later, said Hazel Oxenford, a fisheries biologist at The University of the West Indies in Cave Hill, Barbados. “It presented immense challenges,” she said, calling the seaweed invasion, which piled up meters thick in some areas, uncommon. “We’d never seen it before.”

The prospect is “catastrophic,” said James Frank, a marine biologist at the University of Southern Mississippi in Ocean Springs. He, like other scientists, are trying to figure out why immense sums of Sargassum is hitting the shores of a part of the seas that was previously seaweed-free.

“Right now there’s huge mass impacting Puerto Rico, and that’s the last thing they need.”

Satellite imagery also detected, in May, that an abundance of Sargassum floating across a huge section of the Caribbean and Atlantic Ocean. Both regions were, for the most part, free of seaweed until 2011, according to Science.

Iris Monnereau, a regional project coordinator for the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in Christ Church, Barbados, said bulks of seaweed in the Caribbean may become “the new normal.” She expressed concern about dealing with this problem because it can't be solved by putting “up a wall or anything.”


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