Tue | Jun 25, 2019

Influx of Sargassum seaweed expected in coming months - NEPA

Published:Friday | June 14, 2019 | 4:39 PM
A man clearing Sargassum seaweed from a section of Sugarman's Beach in Hellshire, Portmore, St Catherine in 2018 - Ricardo Makyn photo.

The National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) is advising the public to expect an influx of mats of the brown seaweed known as Sargassum along several beaches across the island in the upcoming months.

Jamaica, like several Caribbean Islands, has been impacted by the seaweed and continues to experience a high level of influx.

NEPA says the floating mats have been spotted offshore Jamaica, with some beaches across the island, particularly in Portland and St Catherine already being heavily impacted.

Sargassum is a type of open ocean algae that is only found in the Atlantic Ocean and provides refuge for migratory species. 

It is an essential habitat for several species of fish and invertebrates and provides shelter and food to sea turtles and commercially important fish such as Tuna.

Additionally, Sargassum plays a role in beach nourishment, and is an important element in shoreline stability, however, in excessive amounts it may result in beach erosion and disruption in the aesthetic landscape. 

The proliferation of the seaweed is believed to be related to increased ocean temperatures and the availability of nutrients discharged from major rivers within the Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico. 

The seaweed consolidates into large mats and is transported by ocean currents towards the Caribbean, washing up on beaches throughout the region.

As it collects and decomposes on the coastline, it produces an odour that attracts insects.

Allowing the Sargassum to remain on the beach has proven to be the simplest and lowest cost solution, however, in instances where it becomes necessary to remove the seaweed.

NEPA is advising individuals that the use of heavy compacting equipment on the beach is not recommended and that special care should be taken to minimise the amount of sand that is removed during the clean-up activity.

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