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Sea Potential – Scientists seek opportunity in sargassum threat

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n 2011, a ‘murky tide’ invaded the Caribbean from the southeast. It returned again in 2014, covering coastlines in a thick brown brine of seaweed— sargassum. The immediate and natural reaction was region-wide panic as the sargassum began to negatively affect vital industries such as fishing and tourism. Although those concerns still exist, and efforts continue around the region to develop best practices for the removal of tonnes of sargassum stranded along beaches critical for tourism and fishing livelihoods, many folk have come to see sargassum not just as a threat but an enormous opportunity. Seaweed harvesting globally is big business, an estimated US$6 billion business, primarily as food but also as an agent in the production of other goods such as fertilisers and animal feeds.

PHOTOGRAPHY BY: NIGEL BROWNE

20 – THE PELICAN/ISSUE 14

With its sudden sargassum wealth, the Caribbean may have the makings of a much-needed new industry, particularly in these times of low economic growth, high unemployment and persistent challenges in achieving economic diversification. Recognising these opportunities, several members of The UWI community across disciplines have taken the lead and begun to explore sargassum and what it could mean for the region. On August 17 of last year The UWI Cave Hill Campus hosted a one-day Sargassum Symposium at the 3Ws Pavilion in Barbados. The symposium shared presentations from a diverse group of specialists, each approaching the sargassum phenomenon from different perspectives—economic, biological and environmental


UWI Pelican Issue 14