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Sargassum seaweed everywhere!


We’ve shoveled it, swept it, dumped it and avoided it altogether. We’ve speculated over where it comes from and we’ve examined how we could recycle it. But nothing we do seems to stop the unwelcome guest to our once pristine shores. Yes, I’m talking about Sargassum Seaweed. Scientific names vary, as do the sources (some say Mexico, some say China).

But generally it seems to be accepted that Sargassum is a genus of brown macroalgae in the order Fucales. Numerous species are distributed throughout the temperate and tropical oceans of the world, where they generally inhabit shallow water and coral reefs, and the genus is widely known for its planktonic (free-floating) species. That’s a bit of a mouthful, but for most Bajans and tourists it’s a tangled itchy nuisance disturbing their seaside fun.

The shoreline behind the Hilton Hotel.

The shoreline behind the Hilton Hotel.

My first stop on my tour Across Country was the popular Browne’s Beach. Known for its low tides, kid-friendly atmosphere and popularity for water sports, this stretch of shoreline is now a long band of brown seaweed and decidedly fewer sun worshippers on a Saturday afternoon.

South Coast resident Tiffany Skinner was more than a little miffed that she and her friends had to drive all the way to Bay Street to find a stretch of beach where the sand was still relatively visible. “I recognize and I know that it’s good for the marine environment, but it’s bad for tourism and it’s bad for us as residents [because] this is where we enjoy our free time. It’s where we exercise.” said the golden-haired beauty.

These avid beach goers now struggle to find a beach on the south coast that's not entirely engulfed by the sargassum seaweed

These avid beach goers now struggle to find a beach on the south coast that’s not entirely engulfed by the sargassum seaweed

Her friend Jacqui Charles, a Silver Sands resident, has a more utilitarian approach to the issue. Yes the seaweed is an irritant, but Jacqui wants to know why the phenomenon isn’t being studied, researched and added to an existing body of academic work for future reference. From a tourism point of view, she calls the influx of Sargassum seaweed a “PR travesty”.

“My feelings are more about the continued negligence of it as an issue . . . I think in the world of Instagram and immediate reports, it should be managed. From a marine point of view, absolutely, I understand that it’s gold, but we are not doing anything with the gold the sea has given us . . .  [We should] use the wonderful marine biologists we have here at UWI. This is a project, there should be interns all over the beach!” she opined emphatically.

The lifeguard on duty on the beach behind the military cemetery near the Hilton says he has been watching the gradual increase of the seaweed washing up onshore over a few months.  He declined to have his name and have his face published but said the Saturday I visited was the worst he’d ever seen it, with seaweed stacked up to five feet deep and some buried under the sand.  Funny enough, he said, local surfers seemed unaffected.

“They are good swimmers and they look out for each other.”

Despite the inconvenience, Shelly Mahy and her family still keep up the tradition of a lime on Saturday on Browne’s Beach.  She admitted that the swirling, tangled, itchy mass of seaweed, along with the added responsibility of guiding her young toddler into the water, was a bit stressful.  But in her estimation, nature should be able to take its course.

One of the most popular stretches of beach from Hilton Hotel all the way past the Cruising Club, The Radisson Hotel.

One of the most popular stretches of beach from Hilton Hotel all the way past the Cruising Club, The Radisson Hotel.

A bobcat clearing the seaweed on the Hilton Hotel beach which in some places is four to six feet deep.

A bobcat clearing the seaweed on the Hilton Hotel beach which in some places is four to six feet deep.

“At the end of the day we can’t fight nature, so as much as it is annoying if we want to enjoy the beach we have to take the beach as it comes, whether the tide high, whether the seaweed is in, we have to just roll with the tide, no pun intended.”

Even the short-term solutions have not found favour with Mahy.  “The problem with the tractors shoveling it off is that it goes into mounds and the mounds deteriorate with the sun and then it smells horrible. I prefer to leave it in its natural environment, let the tide bring it in, clean it, send it back out, bring it back in, rather than stack it up, because it brings flies and other vermin . . . and the stench is horrendous.”

Further up the coast the usually busy Sir Richard Haynes Boardwalk was uncharacteristically quiet and it was obvious that the smell of the decaying Sargassum that had settled on the rocks just beyond Blakey’s was a turn off. Julie and her family regularly go for strolls there and she suggested that more of a volunteer/community effort should be put in to clear the foul smelling weed, despite whatever value it may have to our ecosystem.

“I know they’ve been doing some work to clean it up, but it still needs a lot to be done . . . You could even get the kids involved.  Of course every effort is costly, but … I know there are [volunteer] groups that are cleaning up other parts of the country. Maybe we should establish more along the southeast coast to clean up some of this because it’s not going away any time,” she said.

As my afternoon came to a close, I had a quick chat with some of the tourists dining near the sea at Tapas restaurant. They said the seaweed wasn’t so bothersome once they got out into the relatively clear water. However, the question remains, what do we do with these shores sheeted in Sargassum Seaweed, which seems to be coming in on the tides faster than we can manage it? Next time I’m About Town I intend to check out the rest of Barbados’ coastline and get some insight from the people who are most likely to understand this phenomenon.

20 Responses to Sargassum seaweed everywhere!

  1. Patrick Blackman June 27, 2015 at 11:33 am

    Simple solution, we that the labour at Dodds and the labour at the Drill Hall (army) put them all to good use. Problem solved.

  2. Patrick Blackman June 27, 2015 at 11:35 am

    What the bobcat driver is doing is wrong, the sand needs surface raking not piling with the weed. Look at the amount of sand in that pile which most probably will be carted off somewhere.

  3. Cherylann Bourne-Hayes
    Cherylann Bourne-Hayes June 27, 2015 at 12:41 pm

    The water seems pretty clear. Just a matter of cleaning up the shore. Lots of young ones wasting their time could be put to use. Dodds.

  4. Sisi Kitty Greenidge
    Sisi Kitty Greenidge June 27, 2015 at 12:51 pm


    • Ari Bianca
      Ari Bianca June 27, 2015 at 4:31 pm

      Wow! This is really bad for tourism! Barbados needs to get a handle on this quickly!

    • Sisi Kitty Greenidge
      Sisi Kitty Greenidge June 27, 2015 at 5:40 pm

      My cover photo was the before pic

  5. Jean Rycroft
    Jean Rycroft June 27, 2015 at 12:53 pm

    Beautiful browned beach, !! What a shame!

  6. Veroniva Boyce
    Veroniva Boyce June 27, 2015 at 1:18 pm

    God is GOOD. Enough work for the youth offenders to keep them occupied.

  7. Paula Jane Wnbf Pro
    Paula Jane Wnbf Pro June 27, 2015 at 1:29 pm

    None here. This is in St. Peter. Fingers crossed it stays this way.

    • Paula Jane Wnbf Pro
      Paula Jane Wnbf Pro June 27, 2015 at 3:25 pm

      Almond/Heywoods. You don’t need to come this far, Mullins was fine also.

  8. Greitcha Smith
    Greitcha Smith June 27, 2015 at 1:51 pm

    No doubt like any unwelcomed visitor it will pi*s off soon enough!

  9. Daniel Polonis
    Daniel Polonis June 27, 2015 at 3:53 pm

    What Scott Price said….and export it to California farmers…it retains moisture in the soil..

  10. cecil P June 27, 2015 at 11:49 pm

    can’t this be stop before it reaches the beach ? they should be some kind of net to trap this seaweed before it reach our beautiful beaches. they use nets to catch fish I have seen some boats using nets to catch fish. can they figure out a way to try this come on BAJAN posse I know u can do it im counting on u

    • John Everatt June 28, 2015 at 9:17 am

      Why not purchase or lease a vessel that can deal with this seaweed before it reaches the shore. That vessel (of which there are a number of outfits that manufacture them – Google it) could then conveyor the seaweed onto a barge which could be off loaded at sea in currents that take it away from the island. I’m sure a vessel such as this could be contracted to do this job instead of Barbados taking the responsibility for maintaining the equipment and making it work.

  11. Joan Watson June 28, 2015 at 9:00 am

    This seaweed problem is going on too long and should ever got so bad…the government should have been on this problem with a solution…especially this season…BRING IN ALL THE PRISIONERS TO CLEAN UP THIS BIG PROBLEM…GOVERNMENT SHAME ON YOU.

  12. Matthieu B. March 2, 2016 at 5:40 am

    It doesn’t seem 2016 will be better :
    – According to the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association :
    – According to the South Florida University :
    – According to St Maarten Nature Foundation :


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