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Costly weed

Millions needed to clear Sargassum

An international crisis and the greatest single threat facing Caribbean economies.

That’s how the recently installed Vice Chancellor of the University of the West Indies (UWI) Sir Hilary Beckles described the influx of Sargassum with which the region is grappling, estimating that the Caribbean would need US$120 million and 100,000 people to clear the troublesome weed.

Addressing a Sargassum symposium hosted by the UWI Cave Hill Campus this morning, Sir Hilary described the situation as disturbing, saying the region’s vital tourism sector was at risk.

Sir Hilary Beckles

Sir Hilary Beckles

“This is the greatest single threat to the Caribbean . . . This is a threat not only to our tourism product, it is also a threat to our regional economy,” he told participants.

“But since this is an international crisis I am therefore calling upon the international community to see this as such. Here in is an endemic and systemic threat to the resilience and development of these nations and therefore we must have an international response to this.”

The regional historian said there was beginning to be a perception of a “dirty beach syndrome” in the Caribbean, which he said ought not to be allowed to become a part of the regional reality.

“We have a tourism brand and we have a product and that product is built around the beauty of our marine ecologies and our beaches . . . this phenomenon is a threat to this brand and therefore we must do all we can to protect this brand. It is in our economic and social interest that we do so,” said Sir Hilary.

The Caribbean historian pointed to Mexico which has said it will spend $9.1 million and hire 4,600 temporary workers to help clean up the pesky seaweed from 180 kilometres of the country’s Caribbean coast.

He said if the Mexico formula were adopted, the region would need in excess of US$100 million to fund a clean up campaign.

“I am led to believe that every day at least 10,000 tons of this weed is deposited on our beaches across the Caribbean . . . if you take all of that information and we take the Mexican strategy and then apply that to the Caribbean world . . . what you are looking at is maybe US$120 million.

“[We] probably [would have] to deploy over 100, 000 people to carry out a similar strategy across the Caribbean space to make our beaches available to those who wish to use them for their multiple purposes,” he added.

The former UWI Cave Hill principal also called for the establishment of a special ‘Sargassum support fund’ as well as an emergency agency to combat the explosion of the seaweed.

“Since this is going to be the new normal we need institutional development to accommodate the sustainability of the necessary research and policy formulation and therefore we need a Sargassum Emergency Agency,” he said.

Meanwhile, principal of the UWI Cave Hill Campus Eudine Barriteau said the university stood ready to do what it could to address the issue, despite limited funding for research and development.

She noted that the region could not afford to spare time, and at the end of the symposium UWI would deploy a multi-media strategy to share key findings.

“We are aiming to provide strategies for our governments and key sectors, and critical information for our Caribbean publics,” she said.

Describing the influx as an environmental, economic and social crisis, Barriteau said in spite of funding inadequacy the university and its regional partners were demonstrating that they took very seriously, the responsibility of creating indigenous solutions.

“I believe we have a moral obligation to do so. The UWI is ready, willing and open to working with international experts in this area. Yet we cannot and do not await their interest in solving what is fundamentally our problem,” Barriteau said. (MM)

9 Responses to Costly weed

  1. seagul August 18, 2015 at 5:28 am

    Not one suggestion-word of financial obligation from the boutique Hotels…

  2. Tony Webster August 18, 2015 at 6:00 am

    After several months of an elephant in-da-room, and evahbody pointing at somebody else to come up with a solution (even an amelioration)… we should yet thank God for demonstrating our capacity for dealing with a real-real crisis, such as a visitor named ebola, or bird flu.

    On the brighter side of life…at least Sir Aich…spared us an up-date on reparations.

  3. jrsmith August 18, 2015 at 6:12 am

    The Caribbean leaders are to be blame , for this problem, as like everything else, this matter can be so easily resolve,

    This problem should have been tackled from day one, cleaning it up as it comes clear it up but they done nothing, the same way as allowing , unused land bush to grow to breed mosquitoes making many people ill. they are just a waste of time.

    In Barbados we have a lot of young men under lock and key at DODDs, put chains on they feet , get they assess out to help clear the beaches.

  4. carson c cadogan August 18, 2015 at 8:29 am


    “In Barbados we have a lot of young men under lock and key at DODDs, put chains on they feet , get they assess out to help clear the beaches.”

    One can trust you to come out with simplistic “solutions” What are you and your family doing to ease the situation, other than running up your mouth? I think you live in Barbados, dont you? But in your opinion tackling the Seaweed is for others to do not you.

    For your edification it is not as simple as “putting chains on they feet…..”, a prisoner would have to be sentenced to Hard Labour to brought out to do what you are foolishly offering.

    BTW Editor, the title is misleading, it ought to be “Costly Seaweed” not “Costly Weed” with all its illegal connotations.

    Just saying!!!

  5. jrsmith August 18, 2015 at 9:43 am

    @, Carson,C,C, so are not running your mouth at me, you started to clear a beach somewhere on the island , are you. my idea is simple ,because I am not from the other side.

  6. seagul August 18, 2015 at 10:53 am

    Straight to the deep south chain-gang Mississippi Alabama era—yep Texas jr boss.

  7. Alex Alleyne August 18, 2015 at 11:32 am

    I have been saying it for quite sometime over and over again . Use most of the people at DODDS city who are sitting in the 5 star hotel to come out and clean the seaweed off the beaches .Why put a guy in jail for having one “spliff” when he/she can be put to work out there .Also the drains at the side of the roads need to be cleared , more work there for them . The hard core gun men will stay in and rot .

  8. Alex Alleyne August 18, 2015 at 11:37 am

    Costly weed , teenage man , What next ???????????
    You are getting close to that RAG ,,,,,,,,,Nation.

  9. dwayne jordan August 19, 2015 at 8:14 am

    I agree with jr smith,, make them work, why should our tax payers $ go down the drain incarcerating non violent offenders and there is so much work to be done on the outside. The $ that is spent on a law breaker at dodds should be paid back with work done.

    We have lazy policy makers and politicians,, a court system which is abused by lawyers and clients for $. And judges who are soft and do favours bc of who knows who.


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