Tobago Gears Up to Fight Sargassum Invasion


Jewel Fraser (Caribbean 360) reports on the ever-increasing onslaught of sargassum seaweed  accumulation on Tobago’s shores:

As Tobago’s tourism industry struggles to repel the sargassum invasions that have smothered its beaches with massive layers of seaweed as far as the eye can see – in some places half a metre thick – and left residents retching from the stench, the island’s government is working to establish an early warning system that will alert islanders of imminent invasions so they can take defensive action.

The Deputy Director of Trinidad and Tobago’s Institute of Marine Affairs (IMA), Dr Rahanna Juman, told IPS: “After the 2015 sargassum event, the IMA got stakeholders together and developed a sargassum response plan. We looked at some sort of early warning mechanism [using satellites]. We know that it comes off of the South American mainland. If we know when it is coming and we can forecast which part of the coast it is going to land, we can inform the relevant regional authority so they can put things in place. We have this network set up. We got the Met Services to provide an idea of where [the sargassum] is going to land.” [. . .]

The 2010-2015 State of the Marine Environment (SOME) report, released in May this year by the IMA, states: “Sargassum invasion of Trinidad and Tobago’s beaches is a relatively novel phenomenon for which we have been largely unprepared for in the past. However, with climate change causing continuous warming of the oceans, it appears that future events are likely.”

The country experienced massive onslaughts of sargassum, a type of seaweed, in 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2015, and some again this year. “Sargassum is a natural phenomenon,” said Dr. Juman, but it was the quantity of the seaweed that stunned the public during these years.

The consequences for Tobago’s tourism industry have been debilitating. [. . .]

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