Press Release

Department of Agriculture and Fisheries
Release Date:
Friday, 31 July 2015 - 11:15am

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Labour is confirming that the Sargassum Seaweed that has washed along the Territory’s beaches and shorelines has many benefits and advantages to fisheries in the Virgin Islands.

The floating brown seaweed is a marine algae that originates from the Sargasso Sea which is a region in the Gyre of the North Atlantic Ocean. The sargassum is commonly found on beaches and shorelines throughout tropical areas worldwide and undergoes seasonal cycles of growth and decay due to changes in sea temperature that may or may not be attributed to Climate Change.

Acting Deputy Chief Conservation and Fisheries Officer, Mr. Mervin Hastings said that the Sargassum provides a nursery for many species of fish and is similar to a mangrove system, as mangroves are important nurseries for fish, crab, turtles and other marine creatures.

Mr. Hastings said, “The seaweed provides a similar function to that of the mangroves. Unfortunately the smell can be unwanted and lingering, especially after the seaweed washes to shore. However, while there are other efforts in place now, for cleaning the beaches, we want to continue to encourage persons to wait two to three weeks after the sea weed has washed ashore before collecting it.”

Permanent Secretary within the Ministry of Natural Resources and Labour, Mr. Ronald Smith-Berkeley said that the Ministry is currently making efforts towards purchasing a special machine that can remove the seaweed from the ocean and another from the shoreline.  

Mr. Smith-Berkeley added, “Along with these efforts, we are also now, in discussions with our colleagues in the region facing similar issues, as we look for solutions and share best management practices when it comes to the seaweed.”

The Conservation and Fisheries Department is cautioning persons against collecting the seaweed while it is still afloat in the ocean as it may be sheltering wildlife. The department is also notifying persons that once it is collected it can be made into agricultural compost after the salt has been washed out, or sent to the incinerator for disposal.

For more information on the sargassum seaweed and cleaning efforts, please contact the Conservation and Fisheries Department at 468-2700.

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Labour endeavours to effectively administer the Territory’s natural resources in a manner that ensures long-term sustainability.