Massive stinking blobs of seaweed are approaching Florida and the Caribbean

Massive stinking blobs of seaweed are approaching Florida and the Caribbean
Share it now
A gigantic clump of algae stretching 5,000 miles across is steadily moving towards the Caribbean and the state of Florida. Researchers predict this enormous algal bloom could be one of the largest on record.

Most of the Caribbean, beaches along the Atlantic coast, the state of Florida, Key West and the Bahamas are likely to experience the effects of the brown seaweed, which emits a rotting-egg odor when it washes up, affecting cruise ships sailing to the area.

Algae affect beaches and cruise ships

The approach of a massive 5000-mile clump of algae has sparked concern in the cruise industry. The impact is not just limited to the Florida coast, but extends to well-known cruise destinations throughout the Caribbean Barbados popular in the south close to the beaches Cruise ports in Mexico. At this moment, the blob stretches between the west coast of Africa and the northern tip of South America.

Last summer, the U.S. Virgin Islands declared a state of emergency because of “extraordinarily large amounts” of sargassum that had accumulated on its shores. In 2018, a massive sargassum bloom stretching some 5,500 miles across the Atlantic led to doctors on the Caribbean Islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique, which record thousands of “acute” exposures to hydrogen sulfide.

2018, Sargassum seaweed invaded Grand Turk beach, a popular cruise ship destination. The seaweed marred the normally pristine beach, making it dark and gloomy. As the current algal patch approaches, there are concerns that similar situations could arise at other cruise destinations, particularly during the Spring Break period.

While cruise ships won’t have much trouble sailing through the seaweed fields, guests visiting Florida, the Caribbean, Key West and the Bahamas will no doubt see the impact.

Some areas of the Caribbean and key west have already begun to see algal washdown affecting the experience of cruise passengers and beachgoers. In Barbados, residents have been using about 1,600 dump trucks every day to clear the seaweed from their beaches.

Sargassum algae in the Caribbean
Copyright: Erika Cristina Manno/Shutterstock

The sargassum alga will primarily affect the beach experience for cruise ship visitors in port. Those who enjoy the beach can forget about the lush blue, crystal clear waters for that perfect selfie. Smaller boats would also need to avoid heavy areas of seaweed in case it gets twisted in the propeller.

It’s uncertain where most of the seaweed blobs will end up. Beaches in South Florida, like those in Miami-Dade County, have also begun cleaning up the seaweed. The sargassum blooms in the Caribbean have been a recurring problem with varying impacts on the cruise industry and tourist experiences.

Caribbean and Florida prepare for algae invasion

Researchers believe portions of the Sargassum mass will break off and follow the Gulf Stream, which flows north along Florida’s east coast, turns east from North Carolina, and flows northeast across the Atlantic. However, the majority are expected to invade the Caribbean, swim past the outer Leeward Islands, and even swim into the Gulf of Mexico.

In response to the approaching patch of seaweed, several Florida communities are bracing for a potentially long season of seaweed washing ashore.

Sargassum in the Dominican Republic (Photo: Matyas Rehak / Shutterstock)

Past large-scale algae events in 2014, 2015, 2018, and 2019 have prompted many Florida communities to develop Sargassum removal plans to mitigate the impact of the problem. In Key West, for example, the city hires a company to remove seaweed daily in anticipation of a heavier load when clumps of seaweed reach its shoreline.

Local resorts and hotels in affected areas have also hired contractors to remove the seaweed, with efforts stepping up if significant events are identified.

What is Sargassum?

Sargassum is a brown alga that serves as a vital habitat for certain marine creatures that have adapted to it, such as crabs, shrimp, sea turtles, and tuna.

When Sargassum is washed ashore, it rots and releases hydrogen sulfide, which emits a foul odor reminiscent of rotten eggs. According to the Florida Department of Health, the kelp is not harmful to humans, but small marine life in the sargassum can cause skin irritation and blisters.

The hydrogen sulfide can cause watery eyes and irritation of the nose and throat, particularly in those with asthma or other respiratory conditions.

Source: News Network

Share it now
%d bloggers like this: