An early warning system to sound an alarm when masses of the foul-smelling sargassum seaweed are approaching is being suggested for the BVI and the wider Caribbean.
Minister of Natural Resources, Dr Kedrick Pickering pitched the idea before regional leaders at the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States’ (OECS) Council of Ministers of Environment and Sustainability meeting in Montserrat on July 11.
A media release from the ministry said such a warning system would enable countries to detect and intercept the seaweed before it arrives on a country’s shores.
During his presentation at the meeting, Dr Pickering reportedly urged the OECS Commission to work along with national governments to find what he described as other ‘long-lasting solutions to the issues posed by sargassum’.
These other solutions could include “cleaning and mitigating adverse impacts of sargassum once on shore and finding commercial pathways to harness the benefits and enhance livelihoods”.
At least one Caribbean island – Tobago – openly began exploring the idea of a sargassum warning system following a major influx of the seaweed to that island in 2015.
The system – which is believed to still be in the developing stages – effectively uses satellite data to indicate the path of the seaweed.
Back in January, the Optical Oceanography Laboratory based at the University of South Florida was reportedly able to use satellite imagery to identify an unusually high amount of sargassum in the Caribbean and the central west Atlantic.
One month later, the laboratory reportedly produced its first one-page sargassum outlook bulletin; predicting ‘a major bloom year for the Caribbean’ this year.
While there are benefits to the seaweed such as providing a food source and a home for a variety of marine species, there are reported downsides.
The marine alga which typically originates from the Sargasso Sea – a region in the Gyre of the North Atlantic Ocean – is known to impede access to the beach, is associated with extensive fish-kill, and is a general nuisance for waterfront properties.
In addition to the sargassum issue, Pickering also called on his OECS counterparts to remain ready to respond to hazard events and render assistance in times of need.
The Council of Ministers of Environment and Sustainability convenes yearly to chart the course for regional collaboration and technical assistance.
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