In August 2015, several of Tobago’s beaches were plagued by a continuous influx of sargassum seaweed, particularly around Speyside, which required a massive cleanup effort from the Tobago House of Assembly.
This year, the naturally occurring phenomenon has returned, although not in the proportions faced a year earlier.
Secretary of Agriculture, Marine Affairs, Marketing, and the Environment Godwin Adams noted that although the levels in 2016 are a lot more manageable, the THA is still monitoring the inflow of seaweed.
“The Sargassum was not as prolific as years gone by, however there was some that came onto our shores and we would have managed that process,” he said. “We also can monitor the movement of sargassum now that we have IT systems that can afford us the opportunity to forecast the movement of the sargassum.”
The team set up to monitor and respond to sargassum sightings is the Tobago Sargassum Task Force. The task force is made up of a cross section of Tobago agencies, including Environment Tobago, the Chamber of Commerce, the Department of Marine Affairs and Fisheries, and Tobago Emergency Management Agency (TEMA).
For those people whose communities are affected by sargassum, or those who come into contact with the seaweed, it’s important to know more about it and how to deal with it.
Sargassum spreads due to a rise in water temperatures and low winds, which affect ocean currents. Research has also linked it to pollution and global climate change. Because sargassum occurs naturally, it’s okay to have small amounts on the beaches, as seaweed has a role to play in beach nourishment and shoreline stability.
Large amounts of sargassum flowing towards land in Tobago should be reported immediately to the authorities via the 211 24-hour contact centre.
Residents should avoid touching the seaweed, which although not toxic to humans, can irritate skin. Fishermen, bathers and other sea goers are asked to proceed with caution in areas where sargassum has been spotted.