Sargasso weed invades island

St. John’s Antigua- Government Microbiologist Dr Lynroy Christian yesterday warned that anyone attempting to tackle the dense seaweed that has been plaguing the coastal areas should seek assistance from the Central Board of Health to avoid health risks.

The complaints have ranged from a fish kill at the Mill Reef Club to difficulty launching fishing boats and from unsightly beachfront property and swimming areas to a stench created by the rotting marine vegetation.

Dr Christian said that the dead vegetation is easy to tackle but urged caution whenever a stink is present.

“Once it’s out of the water drying out, (there’s) nothing wrong. It just decomposes like it would any other grass, any other carbon compound, so what is the issue is that if it stays in water and then it’s allowed to stagnate in an area, then it starts to decompose; then you get the gasses coming off,” said the microbiologist.

He used Jabberwock Beach as an exhibit. That beach, which is in the north, routinely has seaweed washing up on shore and deteriorating without problems.

Meantime the Fisheries Division released its findings on the invasion yesterday.

Deputy Chief Fisheries Officer Philmore James identified the variety of weed as Sargasso, a free-floating variety which is quite normal for areas of the Antiguan coastline. What is abnormal is the sheer quantity of the stuff.

James said that the probe also identified a possible origin.

“What has happened over the past few weeks is that because of the sort of tropical systems (that) we have been experiencing, we believe that this might have contributed to (ocean currents) bringing down a lot more than normal,” he said.

He said that the extra weed seems to be coming from what’s known as the Sargasso Sea – an area of the Atlantic Ocean where Sargasso is in such thick concentration that ships can be trapped there.

The entire Eastern Caribbean and Barbados are said to be seeing similar influx of the plant, and James said that contrary currents have seemingly expanded the Sargasso Sea.

“If you notice it’s (seaweed) concentrated mainly along the eastern shores. These are the shores that are opened to the Atlantic, and in particular, it has become of some concern within some of our bays where the water might not be freely circulating in and out,” James said.

Eli Fuller, owner of a local boat tour company as well as a life-long fisherman in Antiguan waters, says that around May he started noticing an “incredibly strong southwest current,” and he believes that this flow brought the weed into the Eastern Caribbean area.

“This is like nothing we have seen in my lifetime and it seems that there is still more weed floating across,” Fuller noted in the blog he regularly writes about the sea life around the island.

Some of the major hotels on the eastern and southern coasts have been trying to keep the beaches clear by removing truckloads of the seaweed daily.


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