Sargassum seaweed affecting fishers, SKN beaches

Williams told that the seaweed will reduce expected fish catch this year, as fishers are facing serious problems with the invading seaweed. He explained, “The sagassum seaweed is decreasing the number of fishing days that fishers can go out to sea. Because of the large quantities in the water, the seaweed blocks the engines and cause them to overheat, as a result, the fishers have to look to see when there is lighter coverage before they go out to sea.”

He continued, “We are expecting lower fish landings than last year because of the Sargassum seaweed affecting the number of fishing days. Usually, we land between 500,000 to 600,000 pounds of fish.” Ultimately, it affects income for fishers, he said.

Sargassum-CloseUpWhile the Sargassum seaweed has always been around, Williams said the high amount is what has changed. “The sagassum has always been affecting us, but not in the large quantities that we are seeing now. This phenomenon started back in 2012, stated Williams, who further explained, “Satellite imagery shows that the seaweed is coming from an area between West Africa and South America. However, the reason for the release of the seaweed has not yet been determined.”

Williams said the Department has had requests from residents affected by the decaying seaweed deposited on the shores of some areas around the island. But he indicated that the Department does not have the resources to respond to such requests at the moment, as he pointed to Parks and Beaches as the primary agency handling the situation.

Although he indicated that the weed could be used for agricultural purposes, it is an option that is not being recommended. Williams said, “It can be used for fertilizer once you take out the salt content. It just needs to be washed, however, given the drought over the past few month, we wouldn’t want to recommend that option at the present moment.”

Meanwhile, Lexington Bedford, director, Department of Parks and Beaches, said resources have been concentrated in cleaning beaches particularly on the northern coast of St. Kitts, as they work in collaboration with the Ministry of Tourism. The Department of Parks and Beaches is providing the manpower and machines, while Tourism is providing the financial resources.

Just how much the exercise is costing is unknown at the moment. A tourism officer said, “Cost has not been determined, as the operation is ongoing.” Commenting on possible requests from beachfront hotels and restaurants for assistance, the officer said, “An assessment is currently being undertaken in Frigate Bay. Officially, nothing has been received from our hoteliers or from restaurant owners.”

Bedford said, “The cleanup range is primarily from Marriott going around to Conaree and as far as Lynche’s Bay, which is between Parson’s and Saddler’s. We are having heavy deposits of the seaweed there (Lynche’s). We are removing it from Lynche’s beach in particular, because on the tour route, the black sand beach is an attraction for tourists.”

Suggestions to use the seaweed for mulching has been taken into account, but is not been followed-up because of the island’s drought, as it will be necessary to wash the seaweed before using it as mulch. “At the state we are in now, that’s a no, no,” Bedford stated, as he explained that the removed seaweed is being stockpiled for potential uses later in the year.

The brownish-orange coloured vine-like seaweed is named after the Sargasso Sea, an area the size of Australia in the North Atlantic Ocean where it heavily populates the sea surface, and which has been known by sailors for centuries. Each year, sea currents break off portions of the Sargasso seaweed and send it drifting southward into the Caribbean.

Recently, however, scientific research has found another area in the north equatorial region between Africa and South America, which seems to be generating the biggest problem for the Caribbean in recent times. Scientists are studying the phenomenon, but they are unclear as to the unusual large quantities drifting into the Caribbean.

Some scientists have offered Climate Change, pollution and the disturbance of liquid boundaries in the ocean as possible causes for the heavy Sargassum seaweed drift in recent years.

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