Sargassum provides a smelly feast of fish

Photo by Elesha George
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By Elesha George
Nesting birds on Green Island made a feast of decaying fish when sargassum teemed the coast at Mill Reef on Monday morning.
Sea eels, small crabs, puffer fish and parrot fish were just of some the sargassum’s victims this time around.
Melvin ‘Bird’ Samuel, president of the Spearfishers Association, reported seeing a shark barely alive in the water where he frequently swims
By mid-morning, when Observer arrived on the northeast coast of the island, the tide which had brought many more marine life to the surface had subsided, while the pungent smell remained in the air.
Birds flocked to the area, picking on fish and leaving the trash that had been washed ashore along with marine life. Thousands of flies had by this time made their presence known – congregating mainly where the creatures oiled unto the shorelines.
Samuel, who is an avid swimmer, believes that the animals came from the reefs nearest to shore. He believes the gas produced by the troublesome sargassum stifled the creatures – the worst he says he has ever seen in the area.
“Tonight would be a good night to fish because there is all this bait in the water,” he said, trying to remain positive about the worsening sargassum invasion.
Large patches of what otherwise would serve as a safe place for marine organisms have also been recorded in the waters off Fitches Creek and Shell Beach – stretching several feet out into the sea.
During a briefing in June, 2020, the Department of Environment (DoE) noted that sargassum blooms have progressively gotten worse each year since the initial observations in 2011.
“Unlike what initially forecast (late 2019, early 2020), sargassum blooms have increased tremendously between the months of February to May,” the department’s report read.
The report also quoted research from The University of South Florida Optical Oceanography Lab, explaining that unlike what initially forecasts for late 2019, early 2020, sargassum blooms had increased tremendously between the months of February to May.
“The University of South Florida Optical Oceanography Lab has been examining satellite images to track the sargassum blooms over the years, and states: “In April 2020, the sargassum amount continued to increase across the Central Atlantic, with large amounts observed east of the Lesser Antilles. Beaching events have been observed in most Caribbean islands, with increases in sargassum amounts also seen in the western Caribbean Sea. In all regions combined, the total sargassum increased from 5.8M tons in April to 8.7M tons in May, similar to May 2015 (8.8M tons) and 2019 (8.2M tons) ,” the report read. 
Sargassum blooms appear to originate off the coast of South America and have been affecting the Caribbean island chain with varying ecological and anthropogenic/economic effects. Sargassum seaweed grow on the ocean surface and provide ecosystem services such as habitat for juvenile marine organisms (e.g. fish, turtles) and foraging areas while on the sea, but biologically degrade upon contact with the shoreline, leading to negative impacts, according to the DoE’s report.

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