CAYMAN ISLANDS-ENVIRONMENT- Environmental department urges caution with seaweed removal

Dr Jeffrey Schell of the Sea Education Association (SEA) says no one solution will be able to deal with the recent Sargassum surge (Photos: sea.edu & antiguahotels.org)

GEORGE TOWN, Cayman Islands, Jun. 29, CMC – The Department of Environment (DoE) has called on the owners of beachfront and tourism properties to be cautions when removing Sargassum seaweed from beaches.

According to the department, with the recent influx of the seaweed on the territory’s southern coasts, some owners are attempting to remove it but this can have a destabilising effect on beaches and can also threatened turtle nests.

According to the department, the Sargassum seaweed should be removed by hand raking, as machinery can remove a lot of sand along with the seaweed. Officials warned that machinery cannot be used without prior consultation with the department and the issuance of a letter of approval outlining the conditions.

“Given that we are in the active turtle nesting and hatching season, it is critical that no machinery is taken onto any beach without DoE approval,” said a DoE spokesperson, who noted that no one needs permission to rake the beach.

The change in the weather has brought the Sargassum but the recent increase in the amount of seaweed blooms in parts of the Atlantic is due to a growth in nutrients in the ocean and higher water temperatures.

Sargassum consolidates into large mats and is transported by ocean currents towards and throughout the Caribbean.

The DoE says while its presence can create a nuisance for water-based recreation and leave an unpleasant smell when it starts to decompose, it’s an important nursery habitat that provides shelter and food for endangered species, such as sea turtles, and for commercially important species of fish.

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