Thu | Jul 2, 2020

Seaweed influx could provide opportunities

Published:Friday | June 26, 2020 | 12:20 AMPaul Clarke/Gleaner Writer


The seaweed (sargassum) is a type of open-ocean brown algae.
The seaweed (sargassum) is a type of open-ocean brown algae.

Director of the Centre for Resource Management and Environmental Studies (CERMES) at The University of the West Indies (UWI) Dr Patrick McConney says that Caribbean countries must be prepared for an influx of sargassum that is likely to continue for some time.

McConney made the disclosure at yesterday’s virtual launch of CERMES ‘SargAdopt Project’ under the theme ‘Adapting to a New Reality: Managing Responses to Influxes of Sargassum Seaweed in the Eastern Caribbean as Ecosystem Hazards and Opportunities’.

The SargAdopt Project is an initiative of the Caribbean Biodiversity Fund Ecosystem-based Adaptation (EBA) Facility, with financing from the International Climate Initiative (IKI) of the German Federal Ministry for Environment, Nature Conservation, and Nuclear Safety through KfW, a German state-owned development bank.

Regional tourism, which depends heavily on access to beaches, has suffered under the explosion of the seaweed.

In Jamaica’s case, the Government has been exploring the idea of finding a system that stops the sargassum from coming to its shores.

Last year, Senator Matthew Samuda stated that the Government might have to get the private sector on board to make a serious dent in combating the problem.

“Really we want to see these influxes as opportunities, and that lies beyond some of the research that CERMES will be doing and very much with partners who are around the Caribbean and around the globe assisting in this very important approach to sargassum research,” he said.

The three-year project is funded primarily by a grant from the EBA Facility in the amount of US$981,392.75, with other contributions from CERMES.

PRIMARY OBJECTIVES

Its primary objective is to reduce the impact of and improve adaptation to sargassum influxes in the Eastern Caribbean. It also focuses on converting this climate-linked ecosystem hazard into an asset that supports opportunities for socio-economic development.

Anna Karima Degia, SargAdapt Project manager, said that the launch was a major milestone in pursuing the initiative.

McConney said that there are possibilities for spin-off companies coming to the fore out of the research as provided for through the UWI strategic plan.

“There are [interested parties] within the Faculty of Science and Technology within the Cave Hill Campus and the Sir Arthur Lewis Centre (SALISES) who are working on commercial products, bright young people who have finished their doctorates who are looking at energy generation, biogas, and products such as soaps and cosmetics.

“Other PhD students in another part of the project are looking at the many uses that sargassum can have in the Caribbean and who is doing what. So while it is possible that The UWI may start a sargassum company, what we are really keen on is interfacing with innovators and entrepreneurs in making sure the importance of getting science-based information to these folks who can better design products for the future,and that is where our first focus will be,” he said.

CERMES’ mission is to make a significant contribution to sustainable development in the Caribbean region. CERMES is particularly focused on environmental management in tropical islands and promotes and facilitates sustainability primarily through graduate education, research, and outreach.

paul.clarke@gleanerjm.com