Cayman continues to battle waves of Sargassum washing up on our shores. American scientists are urging Caribbean countries like the Cayman Islands to start preparing for more Sargassum blooms. This as they said the situation will not get better anytime soon. The Cayman Islands has been battling major Sargassum blooms since the start of 2019 creating havoc on the island’s shores. University of South Florida (USF) scientist Mengqiu Wang said its impact is also being felt under the water.
“We have already observed coral that has been damaged because of this intensive Sargassum occurrence. Because we are still in the Sargassum growing season, we are expecting major Sargassum blooms to continue in the next few months.”
Ms. Wang said the annoying weed is at its worst since 2011, stating that her recent research revealed a startling discovery.
“We have observed from our satellite record a great Atlantic Sargassum belt that stretches from the west of Africa toward to the central Atlantic, through the Caribbean Sea and all the way reaching the Gulf of Mexico,” said Ms. Wang. The university scientist said it is growing.
“So we have discovered that there was a huge amount of biomass accumulated and concentrated around this belt zone. In previous years the total biomass that has associated with this great Sargassum belt is over 20 million metric tons,” said Ms. Wang.
She said human waste has contributed to the Sargassum growing faster. “We still have a huge amount of nutrients that are being dumped inside of the ocean that will eventually be utilized by the algae and will then stimulate their growth.” Ms. Wang said climate change is also a contributor to the increasing blooms.
“Climate change can impact the Sargassum situation in various ways. The acclimation can be related to the precipitation which will bring the nutrients into the water. The climate change can also influence the ocean circulation, the surface wind and this will not only utilize the nutrients but also distribute it across the ocean. So I think climate change is definitely an effective factor.”
She added there is no way to say how much the Sargassum will impact the bottom line for the region’s tourism industry.
According to the USF report, the amount of Sargassum discovered in April 2019 is one of the highest in history. Ms. Wang said she is currently researching long terms solutions to deal with Sargassum, for now, she said countries like Cayman need to prepare.