Sargasso weeds piling up on eastern beaches

POSTED: 07/30/12 1:55 PM

GREAT BAY – The St. Maarten Nature Foundation is once again warning about the large amounts of Sargasso Seaweed washing ashore on local beaches. Based on surveys at sea and in the air there are several large patches of Sargasso seaweed heading into the general direction of St. Maarten and many beaches are already covered.
Sargasso is a genus of brown (class Phaeophyceae) seaweed which is distributed throughout the temperate and tropical oceans of the world. Most of the Sargasso 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.
Sargasso Weed has been plaguing the Caribbean and St. Maarten since last year. The Nature Foundation has warned swimmers to avoid swimming in Guana Bay in August and September of 2011 due to the large amount of Sargasso Weed and many beach front residences and hotels having to continuously clean washed up Sargasso.
The resulting large influx of Sargasso Weed has been due to a suspected southward shift in the Gulf Stream, which has pushed the Sargasso Sea– an area of the Atlantic Ocean where Sargasso Weed is in thick concentration, south to our area. Numerous medium to large patches of Sargasso were observed during recent survey flights floating in a westerly, south-westerly direction. Two medium patches were drifting towards the island’s eastern shore and are expected to come ashore in the vicinity of Back Bay close to the Pointe Blanche area. Significant Sargassum was observed during a fly-over at Guana Bay and Dawn Beach. There are also some small patches immediately offshore of those beaches.
The nature foundation say Sargasso seaweed in itself is not very dangerous; however there might be garbage and nets in the floating mats which may pose a danger. Therefore swimmers are warned against swimming in beaches such as Guana Bay that is seeing a large influx of Sargasso.
The foundation is also concerned about the effect the Sargasso Weed might have on the Sea Turtle Nesting Season which is now at its peak. RBC Bank has pledged to keep the islands main nesting beach, Guana Bay, as free of the seaweed as possible. The bank held a clean up there this weekend as a start. The nature foundation will continuously monitor the status of the Sargasso Weed and notify the authorities if there is an imminent risk of a large influx.

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