A regional approach to dealing with sargassum

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The Grenada government says the discovery of sargassum on various Caribbean beaches should be treated as a climate change issue and wants a regional action plan to deal with the situation.

“Cabinet has mandated that we approach the OECS (Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States) Secretariat and other regional entities to look at it as one of the effects of climate change,” Health Minister, Nicholas Steele, told reporters.

sargassumHe said the initiative should be spearheaded by the Ministry of Climate Change here or the St. Lucia-based OECS Commission “to find a regional solution and also regional funding for this issue.

“It cannot be that the governments every year finding ad-hoc amount (of funds) to deal with the situation,” Steele said.

Sargassum is a genus of large brown seaweed, a type of algae, that floats in island-like masses and several Caribbean countries have had to deal with the berry-like structures that are gas-filled bladders known as pneumatocysts, which provide buoyancy to the plant.

Describing the sargassum as a plague affecting the region’s beaches, Steele said that in 2018 more beaches in Grenada have been affected than in previous years.

“There are more beaches affected this year and therefore the need to deal with it will be greater,” he added.

The government has appointed a Sargassum Task Force, headed by Steele, to spearhead the clean-up of beaches.

A government statement said that the clean-up exercise will run until June 8 this year and will be undertaken in collaboration with private contractors.

The statement indicated that the sargassum is coming from South America where the Orinoco, Amazon and other big rivers are bringing increased nutrients from land to sea and the warmer nutrient-rich sea water is ideal for the sargassum to grow rapidly.

The sargassum is then transported by the waves up to the coastline of the islands and washes up on the bays along the Atlantic shoreline.

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