The waves of Sargassum seaweed heading toward Barbados and its neighbours could be as devastating to national economies as a strong tropical storm or a Category 1 hurricane.
That was the warning from Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley as she explained the position she shared with her CARICOM colleagues at the 40th Heads of Government Conference in Gros Islet, St Lucia, after the meeting was addressed by Prime Minister of Norway, Erna Solberg.
Mottley referred to an article in the Financial Times newspaper this week, which reported experts as saying there was a body of Sargassum seaweed the size of Jamaica heading toward the coast of Mexico.
Such a threat heading into the Caribbean Sea, she warned, would require an unprecedented level of cooperation among CARICOM states.
“There is speculation as to whether this Sargassum is purely as a result of . . . a number of activities taking place in the region of the Amazon and coming up . . . .
“But there is . . . also some scientific discussion linking it to the extent of the run off and nitrates coming from the United States of America . . . and other factors that have led to the perfect mix, creating these Sargassum waves . . . that are potentially devastating for those communities and countries that rely on tourism,” Mottley said.
The Prime Minister noted that Barbados had started in a relatively small way testing “how best we can harvest the Sargassum and use it for productive purposes, but the scale at which it is coming is truly mammoth, and I believe that its impact will be as devastating as . . . a strong tropical storm or a Category 1 hurricane”.
Mottley also noted that while the threat to tourism was clearly evident, in some islands, the livelihood of fishing communities was being literally wiped out by the Sargassum seaweed, blocking ports and confining boats.