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World’s biggest seaweed patch is headed towards tourist beaches. What vacationers need to know

Clumps of sodden seaweed emitting a foul odor have begun washing up like a foul omen on southern seashores

The world’s largest seaweed mass is coming into the Gulf of Mexico and anticipated to drift towards seashores alongside Florida and the Gulf as vacationer season begins.

Tracts of sodden seaweed emitting a foul odor have already begun washing up like a foul omen on southern Florida seashores.

In Mexico’s Riviera Maya, a whole bunch of tons of the algae has piled up alongside the seashores because the mass strikes westward between the Yucatan and Cuba.

The annual Atlantic sargassum belt grew to beforehand unseen proportions this 12 months, spanning 5,500 miles, twice the width of the US, and weighing almost 13 tons.

“The big portions already within the (Caribbean Sea and to the east) will proceed to build up and migrate westward, creating beaching hazards alongside the best way,” NASA and College of South Florida Optical Oceanography Lab projected.


The island-like expanse is carried concerning the Atlantic by small buoyant bladders, referred to as pneumatocysts, which resemble berries and are full of oxygen.

After they’re not menacing seashores, the massive rafts of rootless sargassum serve a significant ecological function, offering meals, refuge and breeding grounds to birds, shrimp, fish and crab within the North Atlantic. The tide of leafy brown seaweed, with its sprawling stems and offshoots, acts as a nursery for commercially farmed fish, akin to mahi mahi, jacks and swordfish.

The sargassum belt travels between West Africa and the Gulf of Mexico, the place it circles and settles alongside the shore.


Dr. Andrea Boggild, Medical Director of the Tropical Illness Unit at Toronto Common Hospital, mentioned she grew to become conscious of the dangerous well being results of sargassum in 2018:

“I started to see sufferers coming back from Caribbean journey with marine estuary syndrome-like signs together with eye irritation, rashes, and respiratory signs, which additionally might have mirrored short-term publicity to Sargassum,” she wrote through electronic mail.

“It’s value noting that as a lot of an issue Sargassum is for the tourism trade and travellers, the opposed well being results are borne largely by residents of affected areas because of passive each day publicity and the extra intensive exposures that consequence from actively working to take away the seaweed from seashores,” she added.

“Power publicity to those gasses can result in conjunctival and neurocognitive signs akin to reminiscence loss and impaired stability, in addition to non-specific signs akin to headache, nausea and fatigue,” she mentioned. “Rash and itchy ft from strolling on Sargassum rafts can also be reported.”

Bogglid tells travellers to “keep away from touching or going” and seashores “the place the odor of rotten eggs is within the air.”

“Upon return from journey, travellers ought to search medical consideration ought to any signs suggestive of Sargassum toxicity — akin to shortness of breath, palpitations, chest ache, pores and skin lesions, headache, reminiscence loss or vertigo — come up,” she added.

The sargassum can even impede boaters, slowing down their vessels and inflicting injury because it will get sucked into the consumption and turns into entangles on propellers.

Waters near a Tulum resort are brown from sargassum, a seaweed-like algae, on June 15, 2019 in Tulum, Mexico.
Waters close to a Tulum resort are brown from sargassum, a seaweed-like algae, on June 15, 2019 in Tulum, Mexico.Photograph by Justin Sullivan /Getty Photos


As a frequent traveller herself, Bogglid noticed “enormous swaths” of sargassum alongside coastlines, which constructed up sooner than native mitigation groups might take away it, she famous.

Research monitoring sargassum have proven blooms beginning off the northern coast of Brazil flourish because it’s fed nutrient-rich runoff from the Amazon and the Congo rivers because of deforestation and fertilizer use.

After reaching the shore, it accumulates bugs and micro organism that deoxygenate the water and hurt coral. Because it decays, the seaweed releases hydrogen sulphide, which might trigger cardiovascular, neurologic and generally extreme respiratory signs, Bogglid mentioned.

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