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Stinking mats of seaweed piling up on Caribbean beaches

Published:Monday | August 10, 2015 | 12:50 PM
In this July 15, 2015, file photo, tourists walk past large quantities of seaweed piling up on the beach in the Mexican resort city of Cancun, Mexico.


The picture-perfect beaches and turquoise waters that people expect on their visits to the Caribbean are increasingly being fouled by mats of decaying seaweed that attract biting sand fleas and smell like rotten eggs.

Clumps of the brownish seaweed known as sargassum have long washed up on Caribbean coastlines, but researchers say the algae blooms have exploded in extent and frequency in recent years. The 2015 seaweed invasion appears to be a bumper crop, with a number of shorelines so severely hit that some tourists have cancelled summer trips, and lawmakers on Tobago have termed it a "natural disaster".

From the Dominican Republic in the north to Barbados in the east, and Mexico's Caribbean resorts to the west, officials are authorising emergency money to fund clean-up efforts and clear stinking mounds of seaweed that in some cases have piled up nearly 10 feet high on beaches, choked scenic coves, and cut off moored boats.