The dreaded Sargassum seaweed is taking a toll on this island’s fishing stock.
Newly-installed Minister of Maritime Affairs and the Blue Economy Kirk Humphrey reported today that not only was the island experiencing one of its largest inflows of the brown micro-algae, but as a result local marine species, including flying fish, which forms part of this island’s national dish, were migrating to other waters.
“I am told that in some areas the seaweed seems as though it is just floating on the water but in others it is beyond four feet in depth. It is therefore impacting the fish and the Fisheries Division tells me that we are not seeing certain fish. For example, the flying fish does not like swimming in the seaweed because it is inhibited. This is impacting the fishermen and a number of them have not been able to make a good catch lately,” Humphrey said.
Speaking to reporters at Bath, St John, as members of the Barbados Defence Force (BDF) removed Sargassum from the beach today, the minister also said that though some species of fish were attracted to seaweed, the current conditions were not conducive for fishing.
“Thankfully different species of fish have been coming. However, I have been told by the fisher folk that the Sargassum has been destroying a lot of their nets and buoys. I have also gotten reports of seaweed getting caught up in the engines of fishing vessels. So thankfully there have not been a number of spill off impacts and unintended consequences and we are taking it day by day,” he said.
In the meantime, he said Government was treating the situation as a national emergency and would be carrying out urgent clean ups of affected coastal areas.
The collected seaweed will also go into agricultural production as well as energy research at the University of the West Indies.
However, the minister acknowledged that “what we don’t have is plant to deal with magnitude of seaweed that we have, but it is in our interest to scale up [efforts] in the next few years,” said Humphrey, adding that the private would need to be part of such an initiative.
Since 2015 the seaweed has been a major headache for the Barbados tourism sector, causing foul odours from the mounds of rotting vegetable matter on the beaches.
The problem dissipated somewhat in 2016 but returned five months ago, invading the northern, eastern and southern coastlines of the island.