Got TIPS or BREAKING NEWS? Please call + 1 284 346-6397 or 393-6397 or 1-284-494-1338-office; ads call 440-6666                               Tune into CBN-Telv chan 51 @ 6:00am; 12:00noon; 6:30pm & 10:00pm for Daily Caribbean News updates from Nevis; St. kitts; Dominica; St. Maarten & Barbados: CBN- keeps you connected to the rest of the World

Seaweed invades the VI!

- stench of the rotting marine vegetation is a discomfort to persons & businesses & also presents health risks
Sargassum at the Road Town Harbour. Photo: VINO
Build-up of sargassum at Prospect Reef. Photo: VINO
Build-up of sargassum at Prospect Reef. Photo: VINO
Workers during the clean up at Dolphin Discovery. Photo: VINO
Workers during the clean up at Dolphin Discovery. Photo: VINO
General Manager of Dolphin Discovery Emmanual Gilbert. Photo: VINO
General Manager of Dolphin Discovery Emmanual Gilbert. Photo: VINO
More of the invasive vegetation at Prospect Reef. Photo: VINO
More of the invasive vegetation at Prospect Reef. Photo: VINO
Contractors removing the barriers to allow the excavator access into the area invaded by sargassum. Photo: VINO
Contractors removing the barriers to allow the excavator access into the area invaded by sargassum. Photo: VINO
Bags and bags of the unwanted sargassum being collected. Photo: VINO
Bags and bags of the unwanted sargassum being collected. Photo: VINO
More of the pungent marine vegetation. Photo: VINO
More of the pungent marine vegetation. Photo: VINO
More of the pungent marine vegetation. Photo: VINO
More of the pungent marine vegetation. Photo: VINO
Prospect Reef sargassum clean up exercise. Photo: VINO
Prospect Reef sargassum clean up exercise. Photo: VINO
Prospect Reef sargassum clean up exercise. Photo: VINO
Prospect Reef sargassum clean up exercise. Photo: VINO
Near Captain Mulligans in Sea Cow's Bay. Photo: VINO
Near Captain Mulligans in Sea Cow's Bay. Photo: VINO
Brandywine Bay beach was not spared of the sargassum invasion. Photo: VINO
Brandywine Bay beach was not spared of the sargassum invasion. Photo: VINO
Brandywine Bay beach was not spared of the sargassum invasion. Photo: VINO
Brandywine Bay beach was not spared of the sargassum invasion. Photo: VINO
At Pockwood Pond. Photo: VINO
At Pockwood Pond. Photo: VINO
Dr Cassandra Titley O'Neal. Photo: Provided
Dr Cassandra Titley O'Neal. Photo: Provided
Kelvin Penn, acting Chief Conservation and Fisheries Officer in the Department of Conservation and Fisheries. Photo: Provided
Kelvin Penn, acting Chief Conservation and Fisheries Officer in the Department of Conservation and Fisheries. Photo: Provided
ROAD TOWN, Tortola, VI - The Virgin Islands, like many other islands in the Caribbean, is being visited by a not so welcomed guest. Depending on where you are, you're more likely to smell it before setting eyes on it.

It is the dreaded sargassum seaweed and it is certainly coming to a beach near you if it has not already reached there.

This news site yesterday September 28, 2015 visited a number of locations along the coast to get a first-hand look at the extent of the sargassum invasion and one could only marvel at the volume of the vegetation which has washed ashore from Pockwood Pond to Brandywine Bay.

Clean up @ Dolphin Discovery

As this news site made its way to Road Town we saw a massive clean-up activity underway at Dolphin Discovery and the surrounding environs of Prospect Reef.

General Manager of Swim with the Dolphins Emmanuel Gilbert explained that they shut down the operations for two days to allow for the clean-up exercise and that the facility will be open again on Wednesday September 30, 2015.

He said, "As you can see we have some sargassum inside and we are already cleaning it. We have some pumps pushing the water to the other side. We don't have business today neither tomorrow...until Wednesday."

Mr Gilbert noted that this is the first time he has seen this amount of sargassum. "We hired some machines to take the sargassum out," he said.

Matter engaging Government’s attention

When we made contact with the acting Chief Conservation and Fisheries Officer of the Conservation and Fisheries Department, Kelvin Penn, he advised that we get in contact with the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Natural Resources Mr Ronald F. Smith-Berkeley.

Efforts to reach Smith-Berkeley were futile yesterday.

Acknowledging the extent of the problem, the Ministry of Natural Resources had issued a press statement back in July 2015 saying that there were plans to purchase specialised equipment to get the sargassum out of the water.

“The Ministry of Natural Resources and Labour is confirming that the Sargassum Seaweed that has washed along the Territory’s beaches and shorelines has many benefits and advantages to fisheries in the Virgin Islands,” it said.

“Permanent Secretary within the Ministry of Natural Resources and Labour, Mr. Ronald Smith-Berkeley said that the Ministry is currently making efforts towards purchasing a special machine that can remove the seaweed from the ocean and another from the shoreline.

Mr. Smith-Berkeley added, “Along with these efforts, we are also now, in discussions with our colleagues in the region facing similar issues, as we look for solutions and share best management practices when it comes to the seaweed.”

Worst year ever

According to an article on www.travelweekly.com, this summer’s invasion of sargassum, stretches from the beaches of Palm Beach County and Key West in Florida as far south as Tulum on Mexico’s Riviera Maya.

“The east and south coasts of Barbados, the Dominican Republic, Tobago and Cancun have been particularly hard hit, but other islands, too, have battled the invasion. Sargassum also is a problem along sections of the Texas Gulf coast, especially Galveston, although a slight shift in ocean currents has spared the region from the seaweed onslaught of last summer,” said the online publication.

“This is the worst year ever,” the article quotes Brian Lapointe, a professor and oceanographer with Florida Atlantic University’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, as saying. “I’d say we have hit a crisis level. There’s been an increase in the frequency and the extent of sargassum coming ashore, choking scenic coves and piling as high as 10 feet on some beaches.”

A scientific perspective from Dr Cassandra Titley O'Neal

When we reached out to local environmentalist Dr Cassandra Titley O’Neal, she gave a scientific perspective on the issue. “The blooms that we are experiencing are good and bad,” she said.

“The good points are that it (1) plays a role in beach nourishment for plants that grow in the dunes as well as birds; and (2) shoreline stability; however, not in as large a quantity that we are experiencing now,” she said.

Dr Titley O’Neal explained that the pungent smell is from the natural decomposition where hydrogen sulphide is given off.

“In cases of severe decomposition where the smell can reach roughly 3 to 5 parts per million, prolonged exposure can lead to nausea, headaches, tearing of eyes, and loss of sleep.”

She said for persons suffering from asthma they may experience airway problems. “Other health issues related to hydrogen sulphide exposure may include fatigue, loss of appetite, dizziness, and irritability,” she said.

“If the seaweed is not cleaned up and the concentration of hydrogen sulphide exceeds 100 parts per million the effects increase, including include eye irritation, olfactory fatigue, and drowsiness,” she pointed out.

Dr Titley O'Neal explained that the vegetation is good for ecological reasons, ensuring shoreline stability. “The plants get the nutrients they need to grow and as they grow their roots expand and this helps hold the sand in place.”

“Sargassum is a ‘floating hotel’ with shrimp, worms and many other small organisms which provide a source of food for many shore birds, ensuing ecological balance,” explained the Virgin Islands environmentalist.

She further explained that the build-up of the vegetation cannot be controlled. “It originates from the Sargasso Sea where nutrient input is high and water temperature is warm; a perfect recipe for it to grow and when it gets too large it breaks off and drifts here with the currents,” she explained.

Dr Titley O'Neal said removal of sargassum from the different beaches depends on the method to be used “as you don’t want to damage the dunes and plants that grow there.”

27 Responses to “Seaweed invades the VI!”

  • Hmmm (29/09/2015, 08:05) Like (1) Dislike (7) Reply
    Something else to make people sick....these world leaders setting us up sah
  • .. (29/09/2015, 08:43) Like (4) Dislike (0) Reply
    It is very very disgraceful and upsetting to the stomach. I've notice everywhere now is extremely stink and not just some parts.
  • beyond our control (29/09/2015, 08:58) Like (7) Dislike (0) Reply
    this weed is floating in on us in leaps and bounds and not a thing we can do about it other than clean it or leave it.
  • vex (29/09/2015, 09:17) Like (19) Dislike (14) Reply
    The sins of the people on reelected the ndp
    • @ vex (29/09/2015, 23:47) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
      i must agree and the sad part we must live with them wicked people for four long years
  • VG (29/09/2015, 09:53) Like (8) Dislike (0) Reply
    Even the tap water that we use to cook, bathe, wash etc, is stink.
    • reply to VG (29/09/2015, 10:24) Like (5) Dislike (5) Reply
      you are so right! i fill my bucket with water in the night before i go to bed and by the time morning comes, i couldnt understand why the water was soooooo STINK!!! I always have to throw it away. Now i understand its not only me. To me this is a plague. The sargassum the more you clean it, it comes back double the more.

      We dont know if the chlorine in the street water can kill the germs or bacteria of this. If this continues without the help of the Government in a massive clean up effort, we will soon hear many persons being admitted to the hospital of respiratory disease, stomach issues and who knows what else sickness from this disaster. I am begging the Government to intervene and have weekly clean up. Tortola is stink. Water front is stink, nanny cay stink, pockwood pond stink. Come on if this is Nature's Little Secret let it smell this way.

      Overbearin citizen...

  • christian (29/09/2015, 10:20) Like (12) Dislike (5) Reply
    This is an act of god and the blood moon.
  • more revenue (29/09/2015, 10:21) Like (3) Dislike (4) Reply
    Ronnie need to start exporting this sea weed to china for medicinal purposes.
  • Citizen (29/09/2015, 10:36) Like (3) Dislike (6) Reply
    I now have to bathe with Detol cause the water thats coming from my pipe like its sewerage water itself...
    The Government must be proactive and implement weekly clean up of this sargussum. Many people will soon be hospitalized. The stinch is very toxic to residents who resides close to the shore lines. A friend of mine tell me in Pockwood Pond no airfresher can consume the sent her house has from the stinch and she is so embarassed when visitors stop by.

    NDP keep the clean up going weekly. The tourists should not be wondering or have the feeling that the BVI is STINK. They should leave with a pleasant memory and an excitement to come back!
  • money in the bank (29/09/2015, 11:02) Like (5) Dislike (0) Reply
    Let us turn this thing into a profit by exporting it to make fertilizer.
    • Lily Ann (29/09/2015, 12:12) Like (2) Dislike (3) Reply
      Great Point !! Its an Excellent fertilizer ... But Gov is NOT listening to us ... Only to other members in the HOA whos blowing hot air !!
    • Ocean's Bounty! (29/09/2015, 14:51) Like (4) Dislike (0) Reply
      Actually ya'll missing the point - its nature and climate change affecting us. Also, Sargassum, brown algae that look like drenched feather boas, are best fried tempura-style. They have a sweet and sour flavor. Conventionally sargassum, better known as Hai Zao, is one of the most common Chinese herbs for treating goiter, which now has been verified scientifically by its richness in iodine.

      Modern sargassum algae pharmacology

      1. It contains iodide, which has wonderful therapeutic effect on iodine deficiency induced endemic goiter. And it can temporarily inhibit hyperthyroidism and increased basal metabolic rate;
      2. Sodium alginate sulfate contained can resist hyperlipidemia, lower serum cholesterol and reduce atherosclerosis;
      3. Its water exact has antihypertensive effect;
      4. Alginic acid contained has a heparin-like effect, manifested as antagonizing blood coagulation, resisting thrombus, lowering blood viscosity and improving microcirculation;
      5. Sargassum fusiforme inhibits Bacillus subtilis;
      6. Algal polysaccharides has inhibition on typeⅠherpes simplex virus (HSV).

      So, instead of complaining as you all always do, get some knowledge about nature and utilize nature's blessings!
  • freejud (29/09/2015, 11:25) Like (0) Dislike (2) Reply
    Now prospect reef marina is full of dead fish
  • animal activist (29/09/2015, 12:08) Like (7) Dislike (0) Reply
    I wonder if those dolphins are well/healthy/safe?
  • Light Moment (29/09/2015, 12:40) Like (13) Dislike (0) Reply
    Easiest way to get them to clean it up is to spread rumors that people are smoking it to get high. You will see how fast the police come and take away every iota of it.
  • Go (29/09/2015, 12:45) Like (10) Dislike (0) Reply
    Seaweeds are not from here. Send them back home. Did they clear immigration or custom ?do not think so.
  • Guv (29/09/2015, 14:36) Like (7) Dislike (0) Reply

    give the young men them jobs to remove the seaweed, instead them just smoking and riding scooters recklessly around the place

  • tola (29/09/2015, 21:00) Like (2) Dislike (0) Reply
    We need mot depend on government let the entire country come together and clean the place ask not what your country can do for you ask what you can do for your country visitors residents and born here all of us.
  • true. (01/10/2015, 10:14) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
    LMFAOOO!!!.. tell them we smokin it .. it gone by tomorrow !!
  • Matthieu B. (02/03/2016, 06:36) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
    It doesn’t seem 2016 will be better :
    - According to the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association : http://www.caribbeanhotelandtourism.com/News2016-Feb-20.php
    - According to the South Florida University : http://fr.oyster.com/articles/51049-caribbean-seaweed-will-be-as-bad-as-last-year/
    - According to St Maarten Nature Foundation : http://www.todaysxm.com/nature-foundation-warns-new-sargasso-weed-invasion-underway/


Create a comment


Create a comment

Disclaimer: Virgin Islands News Online (VINO) welcomes your thoughts, feedback, views, bloggs and opinions. However, by posting a blogg you are agreeing to post comments or bloggs that are relevant to the topic, and that are not defamatory, liable, obscene, racist, abusive, sexist, anti-Semitic, threatening, hateful or an invasion of privacy. Violators may be excluded permanently from making contributions. Please view our declaimer above this article. We thank you in advance for complying with VINO's policy.


Follow Us On

Disclaimer: All comments posted on Virgin Islands News Online (VINO) are the sole views and opinions of the commentators and or bloggers and do not in anyway represent the views and opinions of the Board of Directors, Management and Staff of Virgin Islands News Online and its parent company.