Aerial survey shows new patches of sargassum weedPOSTED: 12/5/11 12:55 PM
St. Maarten – On Saturday the St. Maarten Nature Foundation conducted aerial surveys with an aircraft piloted by captain Ricardo Wilson of the Caribbean Flight Academy to look for patches of sargassum seaweed which may be headed in the direction of local beaches. The St. Maarten Hospitality and Trade Association SHTA sponsored the survey from its dollar-a-day program.
The survey revealed five medium sargassum-patches and three small patches; they were flight floating in a western, south-western direction. Two medium patches were drifting towards the St. Maarten’s eastern shore; they are expected to come ashore in the vicinity of Back Bay close to the Pointe Blanche area.
A fly-over over Guana Bay and Dawn Beach showed that there is very little sargassum in that direction; there were just some small patches immediately offshore of these beaches.
Sargassum is a genus of brown (class Phaeophyceae) seaweed which is distributed throughout the temperate and tropical oceans of the world. Most of the sargassum seaweed lies concentrated in the Sargasso Sea, a region in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean surrounded by ocean currents. It is bounded on the west by the Gulf Stream; on the north, by the North Atlantic current; on the east, by the Canary current; and on the south, by the North Atlantic Equatorial current.
Sargassum weed has been plaguing the Caribbean and St. Maarten for some months now. The Nature Foundation had to warn swimmers to avoid swimming in Guana Bay in August and September due to the large amount of sargassum weed. Many beach front residences and hotels have to continuously clean washed-up sargassum. The resulting large influx of sargassum weed has been due to a suspected southward shift in the Gulf Stream, which has pushed the Sargasso Sea, where the weed is in thick concentration, south to our area.
The Nature Foundation will continue to monitor the status of the sargassum weed and notify the authorities if there is an imminent risk of a large influx into the St. Maarten Area.
On the same flight, the Nature foundation also looked for major soil run-off after Saturday morning’s heavy rainfall. There was significant run-off from Indigo Bay, from Cay Bay near GEBE and from Belair Beach.
Quality tests along the shore at these locations showed that the water at the GEBE-location in Cay Bay and at Belair contained high levels of nitrates and phosphates in the run-off. These inorganic chemicals are pollutants. The run-off flowed in a western direction off-shore. Tests carried out at Indigo Bay showed no levels of pollutants or toxins.
The Nature Foundation said in a press release that it suggests to put barriers in place to prevent as much soil-runoff from these locations as possible.