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Sargassum invades canals, threatening nearby businesses

On our beaches, and increasingly, even in canals that ring the North Sound, the scourge of sargassum seaweed is seemingly everywhere.

It’s not just a smelly nuisance, business owners see it as a threat to their bottom line.

Getting from point A to point B through a thick mat of rotting sargassum seaweed, blown in by the wind.

“It’s just a lot of inconvenience really,” said Double Trouble Charters’ Daniel Bennett. “There are some places where it’s almost a foot thick, and it’s not, you can’t go through it.”

Unpleasant and smelly are two adjectives that come to mind to describe the influx. Deadly is another.

“There’s so many eggs and young fish and crabs that live in the seaweed, and once it’s trapped in here, they are doomed,” said Mr. Bennett, gesturing to the sargassum choked water in a canal near Uncle Bob’s Rd in West Bay.

He told Cayman 27 it’s only become this bad over the last few years, and something needs to be done.

“I was hoping that you get a moment to talk with DOE about setting up some kind of silt screen to keep it from coming into the canals, because this has been sticking out for three days, and to think about having another three days of it again, it’s getting unbearable,” he said.

A dead crab was among the many fish and other creatures to perish due to the sargassum influx

“As you can see there are dead crabs,” said Catch restaurant co-owner Walter Fajett.

Not what you want to see from a waterfront table, as Mr. Fajett first learned in 2015 when the wind-blown seaweed and its nauseating aroma took a bite out of his bottom line.

“Just a couple of weeks ago, you know, this came back,” he said. “Our problem is that we’ve been asking the government to come up with some ideas, and they are completely clueless.”

The Department of Environment told Cayman 27 controlling sargassum in the canals can be difficult. As the sargassum sinks when its air bubbles break down and begin to decompose, the water in canals becomes deoxygenated, leading to fish kill.

“We just need some ideas, we are willing to spend some money and find something permanent, and some kind of other tools or something easily to remove this,” said Mr. Fajett.

Mr. Fajett told Cayman 27 one business quoted him $4,000 to $6,000 to undertake a cleanup, but he expects more sargassum would likely blow in to take its place.

“Definitely my business is going to hurt,” lamented the restaurateur.

“The last two years has been out-of-order, and I don’t know what we can do, but we just need to keep it outside in the ocean a little bit more somehow or another, at least from coming in the canals,” said Mr. Bennett.

The DOE said controlling sargassum is difficult, but said some sort of movable barrier could be feasible, though potentially costly.

About the author

Joe Avary

Joe Avary

Joe Avary has been with Cayman 27 since 2014. He brings 20 years in television experience to the job, working hard every day to bring the people of Cayman stories that inform the public and make a difference in the community. Joe hopes his love for the Cayman Islands shines through in his informative and entertaining weather reports. If you have a story idea for Joe or just want to say hello, call him at 324-2141 or send an email to josephavary@hurleysmedia.ky

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