Sargassum seaweed, which has covered several beaches and coastal waters in a thick red carpet, is here to stay, and water resources minister Wilfred Abrahams is urging government, individuals and businesses to find a way to make money from the algae.
Abrahams told Parliament today: “In reality, sargussum is here to stay. We can’t look upon it as a novel problem. We can’t look upon it as something that we need to skip. We can’t look upon it as how are we going to placate the tourist for the time it is here.
“The reality is that we as a Government and we as a people need to make long term plans as to how we are going to deal with this.
“This is going to become a feature of our calendar year as the exact same way as the rainy season, the hurricane season, the mosquito season and the fly season. We are now going to have the sargassum season or seasons.”
Abrahams spoke as the House of Assembly approved supplementary funds of $282 570 for the National Conservation Commission.
Abrahams said that while he did not see the sargassum as either good or bad, much could still be gained from its presence on the island’s beaches. He said there were several ways in which the seaweed could be used to generate revenue.
Abrahams said: “We now need to be incentivizing people and encouraging our people to find creative ways of dealing with this. It is not simply how do we get it back off the beach.
“It is what do we do with it when it is there. How do we maximize the potential for something that right now is a nuisance? How do we encourage people to harvest it and how do we make it less of a problem for Government and more of an opportunity for entrepreneurs inland, and we can’t be thinking small scale.
“We need to not be doing it as a cottage industry. We need to be doing it as a major industry. We can’t be looking to pull little bits of it to make couple bars of soap, we need to be looking to pull all of it and make soap and then export it. We have to accept it is not going anywhere.”
Scientists have not determined conclusively what has caused the mass seasonal invasion of Sargassum in the Caribbean Sea region since 2015.
Experts speculate that the bloom of the algae could be linked to rising sea temperatures and changing sea currents due to climate change. Nutrients for agricultural fertilisers and wastewater runoff from land are also being blamed for the red seaweed which has piled up on popular beaches, leaving a foul odour as it decays and posing a problem for the tourism industry.