The Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) announced today that the seasonal influx of Sargassum seaweed on Caribbean beaches is an ongoing nuisance issue that they as well as tourism policymakers and practitioners need to address across the region.
Sargassum species, a brown seaweed, are found predominately in tropic regions of the world, especially near coral reefs. Since the tropical populations undergo seasonal cycles of growth and decay in conjunction with sea temperature variations, they can become floating masses of seaweed. The Srgasso Sea is a massive collection of Sargassum in the open Atlantic Ocean which is encircled by the North Atlantic. Christopher Columbus also made note of the massive presence of Sargassum in the Sargasso Sea while sailing to the New World. Today, Sargassum is also cultivated for use as an herbal remedy by Chinese herbalists.
Sargassum occurs naturally and is believed to originate in the Sargasso Sea, a two million-square-mile body of warm water in the north Atlantic near Bermuda. However, some scientists believe the current influx was brought into the Eastern Caribbean through the North Brazil Current and because it thrives in warm, nutrient-rich waters, Sargassum simply spreads throughout the region. Sargassum is usually found in beach drift and is sometimes known as gulfweed – a more comprehensive terms that refers to all washed up seaweed species on shore.
The CTO considers Sargassum seaweed as an unwelcome visitor which interferes with visitor’s beach experience. Ironically, the seaweed is fickle in its distribution and in some cases will only be found on the windward coast and not the leeward. The CTO and their Caribbean partners are treating this matter seriously and with urgency. They have engaged a number of regional and international institutions, including universities, in attempts at finding solutions.
A number of theories have been advanced as to the cause of the latest influx, and myriad suggestions put forward for tackling the issue. They will be participating in a symposium being led by the University of the West Indies (UWI) next Monday, August 17th “to crystallize these myriad ideas and theories into workable solutions that can be implemented immediately to address our situation.” A deeper understanding of how to tackle the issue collaboratively, with key stakeholders, public- and private-sector, contributing to the discussion.
While Sargassum may be creating a headache for many stakeholders in the Caribbean today, it’s also important to note that it plays an integral role in marine ecology on the high seas in the Northern Atlantic.
About the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO)
The Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO), with headquarters in Barbados and offices in New York and London, is the Caribbean’s tourism development agency comprising membership of the region’s finest countries and territories including Dutch, English, French and Spanish, as well as a myriad of private sector allied members. The CTO’s vision is to position the Caribbean as the most desirable, year round, warm weather destination, and its purpose is Leading Sustainable Tourism – One Sea, One Voice, One Caribbean.