Caribbean Seaweed Issue Causes Tourists To Change Their Plans

Foodies all over the world rejoiced after the discovery of a seaweed that tastes like bacon, but another variety of seaweed is causing economic trouble in the Caribbean.

The Caribbean is a prime destination for tourists because of its beautiful beaches and amazing crystal clear water, and according to ABC News, giant piles of seaweed that are washing ashore and covering the beaches in blankets are continuing to ruin that. In addition to being brown and unattractive, the seaweed also has an incredibly foul odor. The seaweed, which is known as sargassum, has been dubbed a “natural disaster” by Tobago officials. Scientists posit that warmer ocean temperatures have caused algae blooms to explode at an accelerated rate and frequency over the past few years, causing the phenomenon. Nitrogen-heavy nutrients and pollutants such as land-based fertilizers seeping into the Caribbean have also contributed to the increased growth in seaweed.

Christopher James, who is the chairman of the Tobago Hotel and Tourism Association, has issued a statement.

“This has been the worst year we’ve seen so far. We really need to have a regional effort on this because this unsightly seaweed could end up affecting the image of the Caribbean.”

Certain government officials in the Caribbean have called for an emergency summit for 15 of the nations that are affected by the seaweed problem, the Guardian reports. Peak tourism season in the Caribbean is only a few months away, and vacationers are already cancelling their plans. The Dominican Republic, as well as Barbados and Mexico, have already authorized emergency funds to be dispensed in an effort to rid the beaches of the rotting seaweed.

Brian Lapointe, who is an expert on sargassum at Florida Atlantic University, says that a normal amount of the seaweed washing upon Caribbean shores is a good thing, but perhaps the people of the Caribbean should get used to this amount.

“Considering that these events have been happening since 2011, this could be the ‘new normal.’ Time will tell.”

Lapointe assures the press that the harmful algae blooms and the seaweed washing ashore will not only affect Caribbean tourism, but will also possibly cause fish kills and beach fouling, along with the possibility of coastal dead zones.

Sargassum is a species of algae that tends to grown in the Sargasso sea. The seaweed acts as home to various species of fish, allowing them to spawn in it and hide from predators. It generally grows in the North Atlantic, but may be invading the Caribbean because of fertilizer runoff from the Amazon river and increasing ocean temperature.

[Image by Bogdan Giușcă / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain]