Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Tobago's West Coast escapes SeaWeed Invasion

Tobago Western Coast Escapes SeaWeed: ALL is not lost this tourist season as Tobago’s Caribbean Sea coast has remained seaweed-free, Secretary of Tourism and Transportation Tracey Davidson-Celestine has said.

The mounds of stinky, reddish Sargassum deposits making news in the region have heavily impacted Tobago’s Atlantic side, however, prompting the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) to pledge up to $3 million for clean-ups in the coming months.

Davidson-Celestine said in a media release yesterday that the Caribbean side of the island is still “all rays of sunshine, clean sandy beaches and clear waters for visitors”.

“People who come to Tobago don’t come only for the sun and sea the island has to offer,” Davidson-Celestine said. “They also come for the warmth, for the culture and activities Tobago is so well known for, and for the authentic island experience.

“Even though the Atlantic side is affected by the Sargassum, beachgoers and divers are enjoying our beautiful beaches and clear waters, which have remained unaffected by the seaweed. We are optimistic that through our collaboration we will be able to cope with this natural phenomenon.”
The THA has declared the naturally-occurring algae bloom, which has been washing ashore in massive volumes since earlier this year, as a “natural disaster”.


The Assembly has engaged the services of a number of heavy equipment operators, who are working every day to remove the mounds of seaweed that have washed ashore.


Director of the Department of Natural Resources and the Environment, Linford Beckles, has spearheaded efforts to relieve those communities most affected and has reiterated the commitment of the Division of Agriculture, Marine Affairs, Marketing and the Environment to work until the beaches are cleared.

Beckles said the seaweed that has washed ashore has formed a “wall”, preventing the remaining seaweed from coming inland.

Removing the seaweed from the beach will allow the THA to collect all of the seaweed and dispose of it responsibly.

Sites at remote areas near Speyside — at the Laow Estate and at Murchiston — have already been identified and the seaweed is being transported to those locations for disposal.

Beckles said residents have also joined the campaign to clear the beaches.

“I have been in Speyside every single day since we had this amount of seaweed coming in and I’ve observed quite a number of the residents manually removing a lot of the stuff,” Beckles said.
Turned off tourists

“They would have been able to do a tremendous amount of work and they should be congratulated. We look forward to this kind of involvement.”

Sargassum is one of two species of brown algae commonly found in the Caribbean.
It does not attach to the ocean floor and is free-moving with ocean currents.

It originates from the Sargasso Sea in the open North Atlantic Ocean near Bermuda, as well as the Northern Gulf of Mexico, which is estimated to hold up to ten million metric tonnes of sargassum.

The current proliferation affecting the Caribbean, including Trinidad’s east coast, is due to a rise in water temperatures and low winds, which affect ocean currents. However, some research has linked the spread to pollution and global climate change.

Decomposing sargassum emits a strong, foul odour and leaves a layer of blackened deposit after it breaks down but is not toxic.

It does not typically cause skin or other irritation but is a nuisance to beachgoers and its presence is reportedly turning off potential tourists this season.

Sargassum does not necessarily affect the same location in the Caribbean all year and it is not known whether next year could bring another influx.

Signs from the Eastern Caribbean suggest there will be sargassum in the region periodically in 2015 and proposals are ongoing for the creation of a prediction system.

Though problematic to an unprepared Caribbean, sargassum occurs naturally on beaches in smaller quantities and plays a vital role in beach nourishment and shoreline stability.

Excerpt taken from T&Texpress.

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