354 James Walter Francis Drive
RJT Edifice Building, 5th Floor
Road Town, TORTOLA VG1110
Tel: 284 468 2730
Fax: 284 468 2750
Acting Deputy Chief Conservation and Fisheries officer Mr. Mervin Hastings is urging residents to utilise the Sargassum seaweed that is being washed up along the Territory’s shorelines.
Mr. Hastings said although the seaweed has an offensive smell, officials at the Ministry of Natural Resources and Labour and the Conservation and Fisheries Department are encouraging residents to utilise the seaweed because of its many environmental benefits. He said the farming community can make use of this free resource in gardens and used as fertilizer or mulch.
He said, “The Sargassum seaweed provides a food source, home and shelter to an amazing variety of marine species (plants, shrimps, crabs, birds, fish, turtles, etc.). Sargassum also aids in creating sand dunes which helps in restoring eroded beaches and can also serve as biofuel and landfill.”
According to statistics from the University of South Florida Optical Oceanography Lab and based on historical bloom patterns, it has been predicted that in the coming months, there is a high chance that Sargassum in the Caribbean will continue to occur in high volumes until at least August and possibly exceed the historical record in 2015.
Mr. Hastings said the Sargassum Seaweed in water is harmless, but that hydrogen sulfide is released when it lands on the beach and starts to decompose. He said the “rotten eggs” smelling gas is colourless, poisonous and highly flammable.
The Acting Deputy Chief said, there is however, no need for residents to be concerned, as the gas is only harmful to one’s health in concentrated amount in contained spaces and not well ventilated spaces like beaches. He further added that prolonged exposure in the open may trigger eye irritation as well as respiratory problems. Groups at risk are persons with respiratory problems, asthma patients, elderly people, babies and pregnant women.
Residents and community organisations are encouraged to assist with the clean-up of the seaweed. Persons are asked to wait until the seaweed is washed up on the shores and avoid using heavy equipment which can cause damage to beach areas and other sensitive marine ecosystems.
For more information on the Sargassum seaweed and beach cleaning efforts, please contact the Conservation and Fisheries Department at 468-2700.