December 13, 2019

Influx of Sargassum on Cayman Islands beaches

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Influx of Sargassum

Given the recent wind direction changes, many beaches around all three islands are currently experiencing a largeinflux of Sargassum seaweed, particularly along the southern coasts. In recent years, higher than normalSargassum blooms have occurred in particular areas of the Atlantic where nutrients are available and watertemperatures are high. Sargassum consolidates into large mats and is transported by ocean currents towards and throughout the . Whilst its presence can create a nuisance for water-based recreation and leave anunpleasant smell when it starts to decompose, Sargassum is an important nursery habitat that provides shelter andfood for endangered species such as sea turtles and for commercially important species of fish.

Recognising the challenges that Sargassum seaweed presents to property owners and the tourism industry ingeneral, the Department of Environment (DoE) has published guidelines to provide guidance and good practices tobe applied if removing Sargassum from beaches.  Any attempts to clean Sargassum must be undertaken extremelycarefully as its removal can have a very destabilising effect on beaches and can result in worsened erosion throughthe removal of sand, particularly if machinery is used.

Least intrusive practices for collecting Sargassum are preferred – hand-raking is preferable to the use ofmachinery. Removal of Sargassum by mechanical means cannot be undertaken without consultation with the DoEand issuance of a letter of approval, which will outline any conditions to be followed. “Given that we are in the activeturtle nesting and hatching season, it is critical that no machinery is taken onto any beach without DoE approval,”advised a DoE spokesperson. Permission is not required from DoE for raking the beach.

To view the guidelines, please visit http://doe.ky/resources/brochures/ orwww.facebook.com/caymandoe.  For more information please call the Department of Environment on 949-8469.

IMAGE:S argassum seaweed at

 

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