Government officials advocate community effort to rid coast of seaweed

By GIS

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GIS – Government officials have expressed concern over the effects of a massive buildup of seaweed along Saint Lucia’s eastern shore, and have called on communities and agencies to band together to help rid the coast of the decaying mass.

“It is quite a challenge to deal with,” said Biologist Thomas Nelson from the Department of Fisheries. “The volume of seaweed requires large machinery and other resources, so we would need a number of agencies to come together. It needs to be a collaborative effort.”

The seaweed, which washed up along the island’s shoreline Tuesday, is the free-floating algae, Sargassum. It is a type of large brown seaweed that floats in island-like masses, and is common in the Atlantic Ocean near Bermuda in an area called the Sargasso Sea.

“Around this time, large quantities tend to break off because of ocean currents, and so we have an influx,” Nelson said.

The phenomenon is not particular to Saint Lucia. Sargassum has washed up along the Florida Keys, the Gulf of Mexico coastline and other Caribbean islands. Its effects vary.

“There are some benefits,” Nelson said. “Sargassum habitats provide food and protection for large numbers of juvenile fish species, and can be used as compost by farmers. Traditionally, residents have been known to collect seaweed for use on their farms.”

Former Police Commissioner Aubert Regis, who owns an agricultural farm in the Dennery village, said he has used the algae for the last three years with outstanding results.

“I usually collect it, create a stockpile, allow it to decompose and use that compost as a substitute to commercial fertilizer,” he said. “I have used it successfully over the years.”

In addition, due to its high saline content, Regis also uses it as a deterrent for slugs and African snails.

On the downside, the rapid growth of Sargassum is harmful to marine life. Dennery residents said that as the seaweed washed up on the shore, dead fish, and other marine life washed up with it. The stench of the decomposing seaweed is also an inconvenience.

“Excess Sargassum, as it decomposes, will lessen the amount of oxygen available for marine life. It also impedes circulation which interrupts the flow of water, so it creates conditions that are not conducive to marine life,” Nelson explained, “but it is important to note that it does not flourish in our waters so it doesn’t pose a permanent threat.”

According to the US Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), the rapid growth of seaweed, also called an algae bloom, is caused when a body of water gets too much nitrogen and phosphorus due to intensive agricultural practices, industrial activities and sewage runoff. These pollutants enter the water, causing the excessive growth of algae.

Saint Lucia can expect to experience the largest deposits of Sargassum during the months of July and August. As such, officials are appealing for collaboration to rid the coast of the seaweed.

“With a community effort, the situation can be alleviated,” Nelson said.

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7 comments

  1. Other Uses of Seaweeds
    http://www.fao.org/docrep/006/y4765e/y4765e0c.htm#TopOfPage

    Nuff said.
    Let's go mek some money!!!

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    • The FAO paper is really interesting, everybody commenting about the fertilizing power of the Sargassum should read it.
      I just don't get how the industries manage to wash the salt out.

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  2. The village and town councils should lead the way in this endeavor. Organize beach parties to pay the unemployed to remove the menace. We love to party.

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  3. I guess the government should provide transportation for it to their houses as well. Be realistic theres nothing much that can be done , why as a community people cannot get together and make use of the bloody seaweed? Does the Government really need to spoon feed everybody chpz

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  4. Are you kidding me? Government is abdicating its responsibility.

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    • Given the scope and extent of the pollution, it is beyond the resources of ordinary people to do the clean-up on their own. This needs a coordinated effort.
      Saint Lucians have not learnt to take our environment seriously. Besides, what are all those lazy overpaid SLP ministers being given a salary to do? Is it just to smother us with idle talk?
      Come on! Lead by example. Where is the productivity? Let us see you working for your inflated pay and over-generous pension for a change!

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  5. yes the people in the communities shud help...but they don't hav spade, or fork, or even boots to go through the seaweed. so if tools are provided the people will come out.

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