A University of the West Indies (UWI) lecturer wants to see greater investment from Government and the private sector to assist research on the economic potential of Sargassum seaweed.
Professor Hazel Oxenford told Barbados TODAY, while tremendous research was done since 2011 on the odorous seaweed’s movements, its location and factors that cause it to grow, there is still little knowledge on its value, when used to create other products.
“I think we’ve been very slow in this region in looking at these things but that’s in a sense explained by the fact that there is no research funding available in the region,” explained the professor.
“It wasn’t considered an important regional and international issue until recently. We didn’t know it was going to keep coming and consequently, private investment into innovation did not seem worth it because you might spend a couple of years and a lot of money developing something and then the Sargassum disappears. There are lots of reasons why we’ve been slow in innovation and then there are lots of questions to be answered and initial research in the development of new uses.”
Recently, Prime Minister Mia Mottley made reference to an unprecedented amount of seaweed approaching the region, which could be devastating to the economies of Eastern Caribbean states.
Of the UWI’s role in responding to the challenges, Professor Oxenford said: “There’s a lot to fix here at the UWI in terms of communicating new knowledge and writing, best practice guidelines for fishermen and people involved in cleaning up Sargassum on the beaches to avoid environmental and other damage and to help countries integrate the management of Sargassum into other disaster risk and management activity.
“We need to know if it contains dangerous heavy metals and other chemicals it is picking up in the water; whether it’s actually a fantastic resource and we have to figure out whether or how to use Sargassum as a fertiliser without ruining the soil. We have to experiment with the correct biomass and microbes. If we want to turn it into biofuel, we can’t just put it into a furnace and hope for the best. These things take a lot of time and money,” she said. [email protected]