Tourism Minister, Edmund Bartlett, says a strong collective regional effort is needed to curtail the rapidly growing threats posed by the influx of sargassum seaweed in the Caribbean.
Among the interventions he is proposing, is the development of a comprehensive scientific initiative to devise the most efficient way to collect sargassum in the open sea without harming the ecosystem.
He was speaking at a regional roundtable forum at the University of the West Indies Regional Headquarters in St. Andrew on Friday, under the theme: ‘Sargassum and the Caribbean: Resilience, Innovation and Solutions’.
Bartlett noted that “masses” of sargassum, which have washed onto beaches along the Caribbean Sea, the Gulf of Mexico and the tropical Atlantic, have smothered coral reefs, and trapped several species of marine life.
Additionally, he said the influxes have adversely impacted tourism, fishery and nautical activities such as diving, kite surfing and windsurfing, which have contributed to, among other things, economic instability within coastal communities dependent on these engagements.
Bartlett further pointed out that sargassum has destroyed colonies of mangroves which has, in the process, contributed to the demise of turtles and fish species, and impacted human health due to decomposition of algae and the release of hydrogen sulfide.
He said the Caribbean has been experiencing “colossal influxes” of sargassum over the last nine years.