(CNS): Following a record-breaking year of prolonged and abundant Sargassum bloom in the Atlantic and Caribbean seas in 2018, the start of 2019 has seen similar levels floating in the ocean and washing up on regional beaches. But experts from the University of South Florida say that by April, the amount of seaweed transported from the Central West Atlantic to the Caribbean Sea could be lower than last year, though because of conditions in the eastern Atlantic, the Caribbean may still experience larger amounts again later in the year.
The bulletin from the University of South Florida Optical Oceanography Lab, “Outlook of 2019 Sargassum blooms in the Caribbean Sea”, is a regional prediction with a low degree of certainty. Current levels remain high but scientists believe that the troublesome seaweed, which can cover beaches and coastal areas with very thick layers, is here to stay.
Ocean researchers have not yet confirmed the cause of the increase in the blooms in this region over the last few years, but many speculate that there is a link to rising sea temperatures and changing sea currents due to climate change.
Nutrients for agricultural fertilisers and wastewater runoff from land could also be fuelling the growth of the red seaweed, which emits a foul odour as it decomposes and covers up the beach, posing a problem for the tourism industry.
Some Caribbean nations are looking at ways to harvest the Sargassum from the beaches and turn it into fertiliser or other products.