By Carlena Knight
Antigua and Barbuda (Antigua Observer) – Residents are being told to expect a moderate to major season for invasive sargassum seaweed.
Marine ecologist with the National Parks Authority Ruleo Camacho made the announcement in his latest monthly update on the unsightly algae which is carried by currents and often washes up on local beaches.
Despite his predictions, the exact impact on Antigua and Barbuda, Camacho explained, will depend on this summer’s weather patterns.
“It’s looking like it’s going to be a tough summer but currently the good thing is, the brunt of the sargassum is actually to the south,” he told yesterday’s Observer AM show.
“I always feel a little bad when I have to say this but the southern Caribbean islands is going to have a beating right now … unless current shifts and starts pushing things north then we should be relatively okay but, again, because [this] stuff [is] driven by weather patterns and not by anything like they move or swim in a particular direction, it’s very much subject to change and that’s always been one of the hardest parts.
“But based on what we are seeing this month in comparison to other months … it looks like we are going to have something comparable to last year,” Camacho explained.
Several Caribbean countries including Antigua and Barbuda have been dealing with the sargassum problem, which poses both economic and ecological challenges, for more than a decade.
In 2018 Antigua and Barbuda recorded its worst year to date resulting in several hotels being forced to close due to piles of seaweed amassing on beaches. Conditions have however improved in the last couple of years, with a significant decrease in 2021.
Camacho said concerns are currently heightened due to the potential impact on marine life, as large blankets of the algae not only trap sea creatures but can also affect turtles’ nests.
“We are also starting to get into turtle nesting season. Sargassum quantities on the beach can have severe effects on turtles, not only trapping them but [there] have been some pictures in past years where turtles get caught.
“It can affect the ratio of males to females within the nest because it changes the internal sand temperature on the beach and the sex ratio of the turtle eggs,” Camacho explained.