How St. Lucia is tackling the sargassum weed deluge affecting multiple Caribbean islands

Sargassum Seaweed

You may have heard or read about sargassum seaweed which has been invading many beaches across the Caribbean and Southern Mexico for the past few years. This week it was reported that over 400 hundred volunteers in Mexico collaborated with government officials to remove 48 tonnes of sargassum seaweed. The rust-coloured seaweed not only upsets the scenic view of beaches, but it also gives off an unpleasant stench when it decomposes. According to The Washington Post, many scientists believe that it poses a dangerous threat to the Caribbean. While it can support life in the open ocean, it’s life-threatening to organisms near the shore. In 2011, the first deluge of sargassum seaweed was noticed on coastlines. Before that year, it was mainly seen in the Sargasso Sea, a region in the Atlantic. 

Community members on the first day of training in Vieux Fort (National Conservation Authority)

As the Caribbean adjusts to the annual bouts of sargassum, the severity of the problem has given rise to collaborative efforts, and advanced scientific methods to tackle the issue. In St. Lucia, the National Conservation Authority has collaborated with other Government bodies to train 120 individuals on how to correctly collect sargassum and dispose or prepare it for manufacturing according to a press release. Trainees are expected to be employed upon completion of the training and be well equipped to apply the knowledge gained in a 9-month execution phase. The training exercises began on May 29, 2019, and are provided to residents of communities severely affected by the inundation of sargassum seaweed. The last day of the training is June 3, 2019. The NCA, an entity of the Ministry of Equity, Social Justice, Local Government and Empowerment in St. Lucia, was established in 1999 and is tasked with duties such as protecting, preserving and managing natural assets including beaches and other coastal areas on the island.

Community members on the first day of training in Vieux Fort (National Conservation Authority)

The mysterious masses of seaweed piling up on several Caribbean beaches have impacted the coastal environment, tourism, and the fishing industry. Last year a resort in Antigua was closed temporarily, and the Government of Barbados declared a national emergency.

Once the seaweed has been safely collected and prepared for manufacturing, Algas Organics, a St. Lucian biotechnology company, will develop the contents into useful products. The NCA has provided Algas Organics with over 160,000 lbs of sargassum seaweed in the past and maintains a close relationship with the company. 

Community members on first day of training in Vieux Fort (National Conservation Authority)

This initiative will provide jobs for St. Lucians while mitigating the effects of the barrage of sargassum seaweed.

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