As climate change progresses, sargassum will continue to bloom and wash ashore on beaches all through the Caribbean (Click here for regular Sargassum outlook bulletins).
While sargassum currently serves as a detriment to the tourism industry, aquatic resources, and fisheries in these countries, there are a series of ongoing discussions in the ocean community to explore ways that sargassum can be removed, and how it can be beneficial and re-purposed.
We know that sargassum has some benefits already. The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council in the US has designated it as an Essential Fish Habitat, and it functions as a nursery and as refuge for certain organisms. This means that its management must be ecologically friendly and does not disrupt any sea life. Mexico and the Dominican Republic have already spent millions hanging booms to keep the sargassum outside of fringing reefs where it can be efficiently collected while it is still alive and more useful for re-purposing. Unfortunately, this inadvertently hurts local fishers in some locations. We believe that, sargassum should be gathered in nearshore waters, where it can be collected before it is able to, suffocate reefs, decompose in the beaches and create other problems. Equally important is for all measures to be cost-effective to ensure that they can be implemented on a consistent basis in the long-term.
Currently, sargassum is not being utilized or re-purposed for much besides fertilizer. Some individuals have demonstrated its use as compost and animal feed, and perhaps commercial composting could be achievable at scale if it is collected quickly enough. Commercially valued re-purposing of course requires a steady supply and some investors are waiting to see if the sargassum inundations are a new normal, or just an unusual event due to a perfect occurrence of conditions for the macro-algae to bloom.
Mark recently attended the International Ocean Science Conference which reviewed the challenges for regional collaboration on addressing the threat of Sargassum for the 15th session of the IOC (of UNESCO) Sub-commission for the Caribbean and Adjacent Regions.
At the end of May 2019, Mark will attend a 19-nation High Level Ministerial on Sargassum, which aims to unite the nations with a plan of action and cooperation that will help manage and mitigate the effects of sargassum. This meeting will take place in Quintana Roo, one of the Mexican states heavily affected by sargassum.