CTO looks for regional solution to Sargassum

POSTED: 08/14/15 9:47 AM

St. Maarten – The seasonal influx of Sargassum seaweed on Caribbean beaches has got the attention of the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) and tourism policymakers and practitioners across the region.

Sargassum is a natural occurrence believed to originate in the Sargasso Sea, a two million-square-mile body of warm water in the north Atlantic near Bermuda, although some scientists believe the current influx was brought into the Eastern Caribbean through the North Brazil Current and because it thrives in warm, nutrient-rich water, the Sargassum simply spreads throughout the region

It is an unwelcome visitor which can be uncomfortable and which takes away from the beach experience for our guests.

The CTO and our Caribbean partners are treating this matter seriously and with urgency. We have engaged a number of regional and international institutions in our attempts at finding solutions, among them, universities.

A number of theories have been advanced as to the cause of the latest influx, and myriad suggestions put forward for tackling the issue. “We will be participating in a symposium being led by the University of the West Indies (UWI) next Monday, to crystallize these myriad ideas and theories into workable solutions that can be implemented immediately to address our situation. We are optimistic that meaningful solutions will emerge,” the CTO said in a press statement.

Among CTO member-countries the issue differs significantly from one set of circumstances to another, as does the level of the incursion. Even in destinations which are at risk, not all beaches have been affected; in some cases it’s just on the windward coast and not the leeward.

“Many seem to agree that what’s needed is a deeper understanding of how to tackle the issue collaboratively, with key stakeholders, public- and private-sector, contributing to the discussion. This is what the CTO is encouraging; this is why we are involved,” the CTO stated.

The Caribbean has countless attributes that make our region a most desirable holiday destination. “Our history, culture, cuisine, music, hiking, diving, bird-watching and festivals all make for unforgettable experiences. However, for most of our members, the beach is an integral part of this experience, the pristine nature of which we are proud. We are aware that the influx of Sargassum can impact this aspect of our product and we will be at the center of efforts to find a regional solution.”

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Comments (1)


  1. Daniel Dovez says:

    Invasive seaweed can create a biodegradable plastic
    The first synthetic plastic was created in 1907 based on a synthetic polymer made from phenol and formaldehyde—mostly derived from petrochemicals, and transformed our everyday lives. Its applications have yet to reach a limit. From polyester fibers and textiles to food packaging; high impact polystyrene; polyimide for high temperature plastics, low friction coating and heat resistant polytetrafuerosthylene (Teflon). Who would have imagined a 3D printer a few years ago, being able to fabricate plastic goods.
    Now imagine a plastic made from seaweed.
    I live in the island of the Dominican Republic where an invasive seaweed called sargassum is clogging our beaches. Observing firsthand the invasion of sargassum on my favorite beach in the village of Juan Dolio, I became interested in this phenomenon. The local government alarmed by the potential effect on its essential tourism industry decided to use the local population to gather the seaweed and burry it in the sand. Obviously not a good solution given the huge amounts of sargassum visible on its way to the shoreline.
    To my amazement, looking into this problem on the web, I saw an article by a Canadian research team, studying NASA satellite images who observed that this sargassum does not come from the “sargassum sea” in the Atlantic, as previously believed, but rather from the Brazilian coast, it’s growth due in part from chemical fertilizers used along the Amazon river. Not necessary to speak of the dangers and problems attributed with this.
    Sargassum may be seen as a plague by the tourism industry, but it may soon become a source of revenue and a surprising solution, using the sargassum as a cheaper natural organic fertilizer. However, my total amazement, I also found a possible application for this seaweed: the manufacture of a bio-degradable plastic.
    A company called Algopack is now processing brown seaweed to make plastic pellets used in the fabrication of bio-degradable plastic items in its factory located in North Western France. One French company called Europlastiques is now successfully using these pellets and as you can imagine, finding dozens of applications. The great thing is that these fabricated items can easily be dissolved in water in a few hours and transform themselves back into a fertilizer.
    Sargassum is becoming a major issue in the Gulf coast and the Caribbean. I would imagine that local governments may be interested in contacting the owner of Algopack about whether such factory set up alongside beach areas may be a viable option.

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