With tonnes of Sargassum seaweed still washing up on the northern and eastern coastlines, Minister of Maritime Affairs Kirk Humphrey has acknowledged that Government must go back to the drawing board to find a permanent solution.
Speaking at Wednesday’s CARICOM workshop on the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Marine Biodiversity of Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (BBNJ), Humphrey described the scourge of seaweed as the most problematic part of his ministerial brief.
“We came into office in May last year and one of the first mandates that I was given was to tackle the seaweed by June. This is now a year later,” he said.
Humphrey admitted numerous strategies, which he said involved tremendous manpower and machinery have all been humbled by Mother Nature’s power.
“The truth is that we have hired some young people who worked daily moving seaweed on the beaches, we studied all the various people who’ve used booms across the world to prevent the seaweed from coming on the shore. We’ve seen cases where they have been fairly successful and we’ve tried them here.
“Usually when booms are working across the world, it is normally in calm waters but on the North and East coasts, which are mainly affected, those waters aren’t ‘playing’. So to drop a boom there, you
have to go very deep and it has to be very strong. But we have made efforts to study those.”
Explaining the Ministry’s difficulty tackling the problem, he said that numerous sugar cane harvesters and trucks were able to move seaweed weighing “hundreds of thousands of tones” from off the beach at Consett Bay. But even those efforts were hampered by the unpredictability of the tides, he added
The Minister said: “We cleared Consett Bay and did a video of the efforts and then persons went to Consett Bay the next day.
“We only saw Sargassum Seaweed because overnight it came in such numbers that you would never have believed we had cleared the beach the day before. But that is the nature of this work.”
Humphrey praised and encouraged the efforts of those attempting to manufacture secondary products from the seaweed, including fertilisers and other commodities.
He also promised Government would continue to work closely with academics and maritime stakeholders to continue tackling the problem.