BVI News

Harvest sargassum: smelly seaweed has benefits too, residents told

Acting Deputy Chief Conservation and Fisheries Officer, Mervin Hastings has called on residents to harvest the brown floating, troublesome seaweed known as sargassum.

The marine alga which originates from the Sargasso Sea – a region in the Gyre of the North Atlantic Ocean – is known for its foul-smelling odour, which recently began affecting workers, residents, and visitors who utilise the Road Town Ferry Dock. The seaweed has also caused disruptions to the ferry service, water supply on Virgin Gorda, and has caused extensive fish-kill, as well as being a nuisance for waterfront properties and beach lovers.

But, while reminding residents of the benefits of sargassum, Hastings said persons should capitalize on the positive side of the seaweed.

He said the local farming community can utilize sargassum to add to their plants as organic fertilizer or mulch.

Organise cleanup campaigns

The Acting Deputy Chief Conservation and Fisheries Officer further urged residents and community organisations to assist with cleaning up the seaweed.

However, he said persons should wait until the seaweed is washed up on the shores and should avoid using heavy equipment which can cause damage to beach areas and other sensitive marine ecosystems.

According to a media release from the Department of Conservation and Fisheries, sargassum can also be deadly.

When in water, the seaweed is harmless but hydrogen sulfide is released when it lands on beaches and starts to decompose.

Hydrogen sulfide is a chemical compound produced by the breakdown of organic matter in the absence of oxygen.

This colourless gas not only emits a rotten egg odour, but it is said to be ‘very poisonous, corrosive, and flammable’.

However, Hastings has assured there is no need for concern.

He said while prolonged exposure in the open may trigger eye irritation as well as respiratory problems, the gas is only harmful “in concentrated amounts in a contained space” and not in “well-ventilated” areas such as beaches.

Persons with respiratory problems, asthma patients, the elderly, babies and pregnant women are most at risk of being affected, he added.

On another note, sargassum provides a food source, home and shelter to a variety of marine species such as plants, shrimp, crabs, birds, fish, and turtles.

“Sargassum also aids in creating sand dunes which help in restoring eroded beaches and can also serve as biofuel and landfill,” Hastings said.

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16 Comments

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  1. We don't work for Free says:

    How much ya’ll paying?

  2. SMH says:

    Harvest it to do what? We are acting as if this is only happening in the BVI? How many people on island really have use for this? It needs to be cleaned by machines and dumped somewhere to dry out.

  3. Her Majesty says:

    Get the prisoners to do it.

  4. yes says:

    get the politicians to do it, they are not doing anything of use

  5. wow says:

    what ignorance. We talk about being proud bvislanders and this is our mentality. What has happen to Community Spirit where people go out and help to clean up the area. people would drive by the stench, complain all the time and would not put a helping hand. We are still thinking like slaves. Some of us are our worst enemise. Get up and help to clean up no matter what government we have ruling. We have to be unified to help ourselves as a free spirited people.

  6. WTF! says:

    Every year the same thing. We just talk talk talk here buddy!

  7. I agree with you says:

    They would love to see the experts do it for free I really can’t understand our people we love to much ready done all the young men who sit down on a daily basis doing nothing but smoke Marijuana and tuff up there faces they are the ones together with the prisoners should get the place clean up

    • i born here says:

      i agree GET THE PRISONERS TO DO IT! WHAT ELSE DO THEY HAVE TO DO ALL DAY BESIDES WATCH TV, PLAY DOMINIO, CARDS, BOARD GAMES, VIDEO GAMES AND TALK ON THEIR PHONES. IT HAAS ENOUGH OF THEM TO COME OUT DAY AFTER DAY UNTIL WE GET OUR WATERS CLEANED UP…… FOR A WHILE SO GET TO IT

      • FERDINAND says:

        why prisoners should do it? they are already paying price for their wrong doings. for every misdeed we do in life at one time or the other, all of us or most of us should have been in prison. stop playing like a saint, just that you are not caught————–

        • Yes Fernando says:

          You defend them you and them in the same boat like you expect to go up soon so you gearing your self.

          • Kinte says:

            Whats so erongwith what Fernando said. Yes the prisoners are not saonts neither are a lot of us who are not in prison and I suspect that you are not a saint either. Sodont be so quick to judge.

            A lot of us walking around free according to the written laws should be on proson also including the politricikians and law enforcement.

  8. straight up says:

    agriculture in the B.V.I. aint saying sh-t. So this would be a waste of time.

  9. BVIYoungman says:

    This man is really calling on the “residence” to clean this belly-twisting sea weed?! And knowing them, they would organise school children and young people to do this, and with no appropriate protective gears, just like last year. smh .

  10. 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. http://www.mdpi.com/2077-1312/4/3/60

    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 their 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 needed to characterise golden tides and identify and develop commercial products and processes.

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