For several months last year, the shores along the eastern and southern coasts of Barbados were virtually deserted after a persistent invasion of Sargassum seaweed caused an awful stench as the vegetable matter rotted after coming ashore.
It’s a different picture today. The seaweed is gone, the beaches have reverted to their customary white sandy appearance and the tourists have returned in droves. Any day, they can be seen either swimming in the clear blue water or simply lazing on the sand.
However, this happy state may be only temporarily as the Sargassum threat remains.
Owner of the Crane Resort, Paul Doyle, took a decisive step to combat the problem by constructing and installing a boom in the waters off the popular St Philip beach resort.
The boom acts as a barrier, preventing the seaweed from coming ashore, Doyle explained to Barbados TODAY.
“We designed and constructed a boom that floats in the water. It’s about 1 100 feet long; it basically covers the entire Crane Beach by the hotel and it’s a metre and half deep,” he said. “It’s big enough to stop the seaweed from coming in and then we just use its natural current so it keeps on going down as opposed to coming onto the beach.”
Doyle said the boom was $200,000 well spent, as last year the hotel suffered greatly as a result of customers cancelling bookings and even checking out prematurely due to the awful stench emanating from a six-foot high mountains of seaweed on the beach.
“It really impacted; business started dropping,” Doyle said. “It’s really important for particularly an island to have beautiful beaches. Once we had gotten that under control, we could see business coming back, so we were very optimistic for the future too.”
He explained that the boom was also aiding the aquatic ecosystem, with sea-life thriving at the location. “It’s great for the beach, great for the sea life and . . . good for the turtles. The boom itself attracts sea-life because as the seaweed comes in, things are growing on it.
“This time of year is not the time where seaweed has ever been a problem and we don’t expect it will be,” the Crane owner said. “Over the last year, it started quite early which is mid to late January so we’ll see what happens this year. Hopefully, we don’t get any, but if we do, we’re ready for it.”
Another hopeful was Shekinah Clarke of De Action Surf Shop, who is happy about the return of clean and clear beaches for the current peak tourist season.
An employee of the Silver Sands, Christ Church-based surfing business for four years, Clarke said last year was her first time experiencing Sargassum on such a massive scale.
“I’ve never seen the seaweed like last year, even my boss . . . it was the same for him,” she said.
With the seaweed practically five feet high, Clarke revealed that one of her customers nearly lost his life while surfing.
“[Last year] it was terrible because it was like a whole wall you had to step over to get into the sea . . . one guy went out to sea and the seaweed nearly covered him . . . he nearly got killed out there,” she said.
She added: “At the time . . . a lot of people couldn’t go into the sea, so we had a drop in business [but] it’s amazing now because we don’t have any seaweed at all.”
Lifeguards at Pebbles Beach, close to the Hilton Hotel, said it was too soon to make an assumption on the Sargassum, as it was only seen on a large scale during June/July of 2015.
“It comes around the summer time. This time now . . . 2014 to beginning of 2015, we didn’t see any seaweed,” the lifeguards said.