I know I wrote an article about all the seagrass in Mahahual a couple of months ago, but today I watched a bulldozer clear the beach today of all the seagrass that has washed up in the last two days. I have never seen this much seagrass in all my time in the Caribbean, and it keeps coming.
I have to really commend all the people and the hard work they are doing to keep the beach clean of seagrass for the tourists that come here. I watch the waiters and other people everyday raking up the beaches here of seagrass, and it seems like as soon as they rake it up, the next morning the beaches are full again.
I have been getting a lot of searches and questions on this blog lately about all the seagrass in Mahahual, and why it is so bad this year. So I did some research, and this is all I could come up with at the moment.
I got the following below from ipsnews.net, and is the best explanation I can find so far.
“When scientists speak of the Sargasso Sea, which occupies part of the Atlantic Ocean, there is usually little mention of things drifting out because of the immobile currents.
That is until now. Over the past few weeks, seaweed from the Sargasso Sea has been making its way towards the Caribbean, washing up en masse on beaches as surrounding currents change with weather and temperature patterns.
It’s a situation that is posing serious problems for local ecosystems and critical industries such as tourism and fishing.
Changing currents and more powerful storms due to climate change are one possibility. Another is rising ocean temperatures, and the resulting effects on the growth rates of different marine species.
Increased temperatures and the associated effects may be the precursor which is somehow affecting the overall physiology of the various species of this weed causing, maybe, excessive growth; hence the excessive amounts of the weed seen in aquatic environments.”
The species being observed is a brown, macro-algae called Sargussum fluitans (sargassum seaweed), a free-floating algae found on the open sea surface and known to occur in this region. It is often found in association with Sargasso weed (Sargassum natans) that is native to the Caribbean.
It’s hard to tell the real reason why the sargassum weed is washing up on shores in the Caribbean without some kind of technical assessment,” Sandra Prescod Dalrymple, environmental resource management specialist with ESP Consultants (Caribbean) Inc. told IPS.
“It could be as a result of strong winds that cause strong wave action, winter swells or a combination of things.”
Regardless of the cause, she noted that that the effects are both immediate – such as flies and other vermin, putrid scent, and inconvenience for beach users – as well as long term, and that there could be serious health issues if the situation is not dealt with in a timely and effective manner.
“The tourism industry will be impacted since tourists usually come to the region primarily for its sea and sand,” Dalrymple said, adding that “other longer term impacts could be seen in beach erosion since seaweed usually protects the beach by absorbing wave energy thereby reducing the impacts of waves on the ocean.”
The general public is advised that while this new invasion is a nuisance, it poses no immediate threat to human health but all must exercise due care and caution if working continuously and directly within its environs. The sulphurous odour associated with it is primarily a result of decaying processes once the weed becomes stagnant in an area and is allowed to die.”
I know all the resorts and restaurants in Mahahual and the surrounding areas are fighting the seagrass daily. I even heard a couple of dive instructors talk about today how hard it was to get to their dive boat. There were heavy winds today (around 23 mph), which caused two cruise ships to cancel, and even more seagrass was washed ashore.
But don’t worry if you are coming to Mahahual to go to the beaches. People are getting up here at the crack of dawn on cruise ship day to clean the beaches of seagrass so tourists can enjoy the beaches. It has been a long and tough daily fight, and I have been impressed with all the hard work to clear the beaches.
I took some photos to give readers a chance to see how the seagrass is collected and then buried in the sand. It is mostly water so the sand absorbs the seagrass.
Thanks for reading,
Stewart Rogers USA-South Carolina