Decaying Sargassum at Guayamare Beach, Toco on March 20th, 2021.
Islands up and down the Lesser Antilles are being advised to brace for moderate to severe surges of Sargassum over the next coming months. This is according to the latest Sargassum Sub-Regional Outlook Bulletin published by the UWI Centre for Resource Management and Environment Studies (CERMES), Cave Hill, Barbados.
Since the start of 2021, the level of Sargassum has increased slightly. However, the report notes that there have been 150% more of the seaweed visible in the Atlantic compared to the same time last year, as of January 2021. Still, it is below 2018 levels, which were the worst recorded to date.
At least through April 2021, islands across the Eastern Caribbean are set to receive moderate to severe Sargassum influxes, particularly for the Lesser Antilles’ northern islands. For Trinidad and Tobago, the spike in seaweed mats has begun, which was expected in late March.
The outlook notes stakeholders in the tourism industry can expect more-or-less continuous mild to moderate influxes over the next few months in the middle and northern islands. However, the tourism industry in the southern islands, including T&T, could be hard hit with continued mass influxes.
Fisheries will also be impacted, as traditional pelagic fishing season got off to an unexpectedly slow start given the absence of Sargassum.
Beaches and shore-side markets will likely require significant cleanup efforts to prevent problems with trapped sargassum rotting.
Offshore vessels particularly in the southern area should be cautious when traveling at night to avoid becoming trapped in large sargassum mats
As of March 15th, a report by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the University of South Florida (USF) show varying levels of risk for Sargassum landings across T&T. Parts of Trinidad’s eastern coast and all coasts of Tobago are placed under a moderate risk of Sargassum landings, joining Grenada’s coasts and parts of the Leeward Islands. Barbados and the French Antilles are under a high risk of Sargassum landings through the next several weeks, particularly Atlantic-facing coastlines.