by Ernice Gilbert (VI Consortium) Seafields, a UK-based aquaculture company, has announced the successful conclusion of its trials on the domestication and controlled growth of Sargassum seaweed, a breakthrough that holds significant implications for coastal areas like the U.S. Virgin Islands and the wider Caribbean region.
The U.S. Virgin Islands, among other coastal regions, have been grappling with the deleterious effects of vast amounts of Sargassum washing up on their shores every year since 2016. The annual onslaught of this seaweed, which forms the world’s largest algal bloom known as the Great Atlantic Sargassum Belt, has been a recurring environmental and economic burden.
Last year, the V.I. Dept. of Planning and Natural Resources Commissioner, Jean-Pierre Oriol, estimated that mitigating dense Sargassum blooms costs both the government and hoteliers about $25,000 a day. “Particularly over here on St Thomas, we don’t have large areas where we can separate or bury the seaweed. The removal process, which involves trucking small volumes to the landfill at a time due to its flammability when decaying, is about $25,000 a day,” he explained.
However, the tide may be turning. Seafields’ successful trials, conducted in Saint Vincent, are expected to help manage and regulate this distressing problem that contributes to greenhouse gas emissions and creates potential health hazards.