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Seaweed causing ferry dock stink | Stench welcoming visitors

A mass of pungent sargassum seaweed floats atop BVI waters and surrounds the ferry dock in Road Town. (BVI News photo captured on May 29, 2018)

By Davion Smith, BVI News Staff

Disembarking the various ferries that service the British Virgin Islands daily, visitors arriving through the Road Town Ferry Terminal are welcomed by the putrid stench of what can be confused with rotting eggs, raw sewerage, or a filthy fish market.

But, actually, the offensive odour emanates from the seasonal sargassum seaweed decomposing around the recently refurbished ferry terminal.

And while most visitors have a momentary encounter with the foul-smelling seaweed, Customs and Immigration Officers based at the Road Town dock are made to function under the stench for full workdays.

Residents who utilise the dock, as well as passers-by and those in immediately surrounding areas are also affected by the smell.

The matter has now attracted the attention of some local officials.

“As a commuter, I’m assaulted by it each morning,” said Director of Tourism Sharon Flax-Brutus while speaking with BVI News on Tuesday.

“It is indeed a concern for our guest arrival and departure experience. We’ve flagged it up for immediate attention to the relevant agencies such as BVI Ports Authority as well as the Conservation and Fisheries department and [we] have made several recommendations.”

The tourism director said the foul-smelling seaweed is also a problem for ferry operators who have reported a similar issue at the Beef Island port.

“While we appreciate that it’s a natural phenomenon, at times, nature needs some help. So, we will continue to reach out to the relevant agencies for some solution,” she said.

When contacted about the stink, Acting Managing Director at the BVI Ports Authority Akeem Pickering told BVI News his organisation was ‘working on it’.

“We already have a plan in place to begin the cleaning,” he said.

Pickering did not give any timeline when the cleanup will begin and declined to speak further on the issue.

Sargassum challenges affect BVI yearly

Sargassum, a brown floating seaweed, is a marine alga that originates from the Sargasso Sea, which is a region in the Gyre of the North Atlantic Ocean.

Over the years, the seasonal seaweed has been the cause of a number of challenges throughout the BVI. Some pre-hurricane challenges included widespread fish-kill, protracted disruption in water supply on Virgin Gorda, and temporary closure of the Dolphin Discovery attraction at Prospect Reef. Some have even described it as a territorial eyesore.

Despite the plethora of negative impacts of sargassum, the seaweed is also known to provide a floating nursery for ample wildlife – similar to a mangrove system. It also helps to restore beaches and, in turn, creates greater coastal protection and storm resilience.

Copyright 2018 BVI News, Media Expressions Limited. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or distributed.

41 Comments

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  1. Leader says:

    This never used to happen before… been happening about 4-5 years now and don’t tell me it’s climate change. The good news is that the seaweed is a good plant fertilizer why don’t the Govt license a company who can make a product out of it and thus make it a condition of their trade license that they are responsible at the company’s expense for cleanup around the Territory and must do o within a certain period of it entering BVI waters – as a condition of the trade license.

    • Theo says:

      Makes so much sense it will never be done.

    • LMAO says:

      So you think only BVI has sargassum? Surely if there was a business in collecting it someone would’ve already done it.

      • CW says:

        Google it and you will find that most island nations already have the equipment to harvest it from land or sea. They use it as biofuel. BVI just about 10 years behind per the usual hahahaha

    • BVI Strong says:

      Seaweed makes great fertiliser. It will come in handy when we are back to agriculture.

      • Rubber Duck says:

        Only when you wash the salt off it. Rain does that eventually if you bring it ashore but it smells while you wait and you have to lay it out thinly.

    • Sushi says:

      This is a regional problem, but with the level of vitriol and odious parallels expressed you could be forgiven, if you thought it was intended mainly for our hapless tourists brazing the odds intending to pay us a visit.

  2. Steve Jobs says:

    Between this and the circus tent at the west end we are clearly neglecting our tourism business. Who is in control? Who is managing this island? Where is the plan?

  3. nick says:

    I am sure this will cost one million dollars +.

  4. Keen Observant says:

    No, 5.5 mil to be exact, and the weed will continue floating on in!

  5. Albion says:

    I don’t know where it comes from, but it looks like this is going to be a regular thing. I too would like to see some kind of plan from MNRL to address the issue. Somehow we need to collect it up and either barge it out to say or find a way to use it or dispose of it on land.

    • Dead says:

      The MNRL might as well be disbanded. What has that Minister done over the past few years?

    • BVI Strong says:

      Perhaps we could dry it out and burn it on the permanent fire at Cox’s Heath. The fumes from the seaweed would make a nice change from the ones from paint, batteries, tires and plastics.

      • Really? says:

        That seaweed contains arsenic and would cause even more problems for the people breathing in those fumes if it’s burned down there.

        • @really says:

          The seaweed does not contain anything dangerous. In fact, it’s a great fertilizer. Why not harvest it and give it to the farmers? Do we have any farmers? Isn’t farming the third leg to our economy? Now that our first leg got chopped off, farming must be the second leg to our economy. Do we have an economy? I thinks we only gots 1 leg left now.

  6. Alowisus says:

    We know this already, but the question is who is paying to clean it up? WHO?

    • The onlooker says:

      Yes tell us who S. Flax Brutus, since you sit on BVIPA Board tell us what you are saying about paying to clean up this mess.

  7. Eartha says:

    Listen to Mother Earth.
    Down with tourism,
    Up with Agriculture.

  8. Sewage says:

    Think you find its a global problem of eutrophication, caused by excess nutrients. Considering BVI struggles with primary sewage treatment, there is no chance of tertiary treatment. That would remove the excess nutrient from waste stream that leads to excess algae growth. Other small island states suffer from the same problem.

  9. Balle Klorin says:

    I feel more welcomed to the BVI by the stinky seaweed than the immigration office 🙂 greetings from a tourist wanting to stay longer but are denied 🙁

    • Brad Boynes says:

      You were probably here working illegally as a visitor now coming writing piddle. Why were you denied further stay?

      • Balle Klorin says:

        Hi! I am not working. I am visiting all the beautiful places you got…spending money on restaurants bars supermarkets and shops. I was told they did not need to give me a reason to deny me a longer stay. If that “interview’ was filmed and I could show it to you I am sure you would wonder what the f… is going on. So I go home and come back later. The money I spend on the flighttickets could/should have been used in BVI-businesses instead. Dont you think? If the people working at the immigration office keep being rude and angry with wellmeaning visitors – noone will like to come back. You dig your own grave. Good luck ! I will spread the word. Be sure! Have a nice day 🙂

        • CW says:

          The truth!!!! I arrived once and had to wait over 90 minutes in the sun in line to get past customs. In that time I had some juice and needed to use the restroom urgently. The customs officer told me I was “obviously nervous and could i be smuggling drugs” when I was literally dancing trying not to pee! With the BVI having friends like these who needs enemies hahahaha. (I cleared customs and got to pee after another 5 or so minutes of questions)

  10. yes says:

    It is pretty bad. Also some boats fill with diesel fumes. The two make for a rough commute.

  11. Mr. Hodge says:

    Suggestion: during days when there is a denser concentration of sargassum at the port, why not relocate the ferries back to the cruise pier if that location isn’t suffering the same fate as the Road Town pier. That would give the relevant agencies time and space to collect the nuisance algae

  12. Hi says:

    Lots of good ideas listed here, particularly regarding soil fertilizer.
    My idea is that it probably could be used at the garbage disposal site in cox heath. It may be good for the decaying process.

  13. Busy Bee says:

    Quote:
    When contacted about the stink, Acting Managing Director at the BVI Ports Authority Akeem Pickering told BVI News his organisation was ‘working on it’.
    “We already have a plan in place to begin the cleaning,” he said.

    This of course means they have NO PLAN.

  14. Love my Bvi says:

    I blame the demonic cats and witchcraft for the evil weed

  15. Joan Conover says:

    Research is being done on this messy Sargassum weed. Latest article is in the free/online http://www.caribbeancompass.com, April edition, which describes the issues and some ideas. December to May 2018, we sailed/cruised the BVIS and collected sargassum samples for the University of Southern Mississippi and University of South Florida, getting samples from Tortola and Sir Francis Drake Channel, plus the VIs, Antiqua, Dominica, Saba, and the Gulf Stream. Now waiting for samples to be studied for chemicals and composition. Scientists are working on helping the islands!

  16. Tourist says:

    It’s a shame visitors have to smell the weed upon arrival. It’s not a shame that the nasty and rude C&I officials have to smell it all day. They are just getting what they deserve for they way they treat tourists – the so called second leg of the economy.

  17. Dr John Milledge says:

    Milledge, J.J.; Harvey, P. Golden Tides: Problem or Golden Opportunity? The Valorisation of Sargassum from Beach Inundations. Journal of Marine Science and Engineering 2016, 4, 60.
    Abstract
    In recent years there have been massive inundations of pelagic Sargassum known as golden-tides on the beaches of the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico and West Africa causing considerable damage to the local economy and environment. Commercial exploration of this biomass for food, fuel and pharmaceutical products could fund clean-up and offset the economic impact of these Golden-tides. This paper reviews the potential uses and obstacles for exploitation of pelagic Sargassum.
    Although, Sargassum has considerable potential as a source of biochemicals, feed, food, fertiliser and fuel, variable and undefined composition together with the possible presence of marine pollutants may make golden-tides unsuitable for food, nutraceuticals and pharmaceuticals and limit its use in feed and fertilisers.
    Discontinuous and unreliable supply of Sargassum, also presents considerable challenges. Low cost methods of preservation such as solar drying and ensiling may address the problem of discontinuity. The use of processes that can handle a variety of biological and waste feedstocks in addition to Sargassum is a solution to unreliable supply, and anaerobic digestion for the production of biogas is one such process.
    More research is need to characterise golden-tides and identify and develop commercial products and processes.

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