The National Conservation Commission (NCC) says it is fighting a valiant battle to clear the island’s beaches of the smelly sargassum seaweed invading the northern, eastern and southern coastlines.
General Manager Keith Neblett said the state agency was tackling the problem “as it comes”, and its priority was to keep the beaches clean, as mandated by Prime Minister Mia Mottley, who recently declared the sargassum invasion a national emergency.
“We have persons deployed seven days a week at our key benches . . . . It is an on-going process. The good thing about it is that we have cleaned it because if we leave it on the shore it will end up on the west coast. We prefer it to come in at particular points so that we will continue to clean it, otherwise it could really have a serious impact on our tourism product,” Neblett said, while stressing that the state agency was keeping an eye on the south coast to ensure minimal disruption.
“All the beaches on the south coast that are within a hotel zone, we have persons there cleaning it.”
The seaweed has been a major headache for the Barbados tourism sector dating back to 2015 when beaches, including on the south coast, were littered with mounds of foul-smelling, rotting vegetable matter.
The problem dissipated somewhat in 2016 but returned five months ago, raising fresh concerns for both tourism and fisheries officials.
It was earlier this month that newly-installed Minister of Maritime Affairs and the Blue Economy Kirk Humphrey reported 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.
However, while stating that the seaweed invasion was no worse this year than in previous years, Neblett today said special care was being taken so as not to disrupt turtles making their way to the beach to nest.
“The areas that are nesting areas, we are careful not send equipment down there. We are trying our best to minimize the amount of the sand that is being moved.
“We are also using two pieces of equipment that we have brought in that when the beaches are removed of the large amounts those go and remove the rest with less sand,” Neblett explained.
The NCC general manager said it could be challenging sometimes to access the beach with the equipment, and he appealed to the private sector and other organizations to pitch in with the clean-up.