It is likely that
sargassum may be the new normal for the region
PHOTOGRAPHY BY: NIGEL BROWNE
key word is “potential”. To spawn a thriving industry from what is at present a coastal threat, more research, technology and investment is required. Speaking at the Sargassum Symposium, The UWI Vice-Chancellor Sir Hilary Beckles said that it would require US$120 million and more than 100,000 workers to simply clean the mats from Caribbean coastlines. There is also the risk of basing an industry on a phenomenon that we do not fully understand. What if enormous investments are made into materials and manpower for the clean-up, transport and processing of sargassum and the supply stops? “We need both long term and short term predictive research to properly inform potential industry about what is happening with sargassum,” Professor Oxenford says. “Will there be a sufficient supply of sargassum over time to justify investment? We also need to be able to predict what will happen in a month or a week so
that the necessary resources to collect the sargassum are deployed efficiently.” However, Professor Oxenford believes it is likely that sargassum may be the new normal for the region: “I suspect that from now on we will have a seasonal sargassum event that will be highly variable from year to year in the amount of sargassum that is delivered to the Caribbean and it will depend on a number of ocean and climate factors working together.” For industries that rely on the natural beauty of our coastlines, such as tourism, the prospect of an annual sargassum season is daunting. But adaptability to new circumstances, no matter how challenging, has always been key to the progress and survival of societies. It is still early days for The UWI’s research into this phenomenon but the work has begun and it is possible that one day in the near future sargassum may be more of a benefit than a burden to the Caribbean.
THE PELICAN/ISSUE 14 –