Weed it out

'Big countries should join Sargassum fight'

As the University of the West Indies (UWI) prepares to host a symposium next week to discuss the Sargassum seaweed problem, a former UWI professor and medical doctor has called for the issue to be addressed at the highest possible level on the international stage.

Stating that the problem was not only affecting Barbados, Senator Sir Henry Fraser told Barbados TODAY he was aware that the weed was also affecting other countries bordering the Atlantic Ocean. He said it was therefore necessary that all the affected countries, led by those with larger economies, come together and tackle the issue.

This beach covered in  Sargassum is one example  of the problem that the Caribbean is facing with the seaweed.
This beach covered inSargassum is one example
of the problem that the Caribbean is facing with the seaweed.

“The media are now letting us know that Sargassum is invading the beaches around the Atlantic on all sides, including Africa [and] South America, and it is going all across the American coast and right up into the Gulf of Mexico. So we are not the only one suffering,” said Sir Henry.

“It is an Atlantic problem and therefore all the countries bordering the Atlantic which are the big countries with big economies like the USA, the wealthier countries along the South American coast including Brazil, which is one of the big emerging economies, these countries should be getting together with all of their scientists to see what is happening,” he added.

Making clear he was not an expert on the subject, the architectural historian and retired professor of medicine said he suspected that the influx of the vine-like weed was as a result of global warming, and that the scope of the problem was such that Barbados alone would not be able to solve the problem.

“It needs international collaboration, and the OAS (Organization of American States) and others should be looking at this. Research is being done in places like Texas, other universities are looking at the use of the weed, but more needs to be put into how we can control the actual proliferation of the weed, which is so excessive and epidemic at the moment.”

Sir Henry insisted that while everyone could play a role in managing what has been washed ashore, a more universal approach was needed. At the national level, he said, the bigger problem was trying to keep the beaches presentable.

“We can compost it, use it for fertilizer, and there may be other ways we can use it. But it needs a comprehensive approach. None of us can solve it independently. But certainly, if you want to keep your beaches clean to get the tourists here, then you have to do something about it,” he said.

So far, the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) has engaged regional and international institutions to find a solution to the influx of Sargassum weed on regional beaches that is threatening the region’s tourism product.

Some countries, including Mexico, are spending millions of dollars trying to clean
up the seaweed from beaches. 

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