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.
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