One night residents, tourists and fishermen alike went to bed in the coastal village of Speyside on the island of Tobago. The next morning greeted everyone in the most shocking way possible.
From April to September 2015 the Caribbean experienced a severe occurrence of a new type of natural disaster. Sargassum seaweed washed up on the shores of several islands causing pertinent issues for coastal and fishing communities.
Though the seaweed has been washing up on the region’s shores for about 5 years, its quantity in 2015 was unlike anything seen before, raising its threat level to a national issue.
What exactly is this seaweed, and what is being done to prevent its negative effects?
The seaweed is actually a brown algae and its type is new to the region meaning it is an invasive species. As some may know invasive species are referred to as any flora or fauna that is not native to a specific area, country or region.
The phenomenon occurred from April to September last year, which is an unusually long time span for seaweed to float into Caribbean waters.
Furthermore it is expected to happen again.
Warmer temperatures, nutrients from the Amazon and Congo rivers, as well as the ever present Sahara dust in the atmosphere all combine in the Atlantic ocean providing the perfect environment for the sargassum seeds to flourish, gather and make its way to the Caribbean islands.
In this episode we visit the Institute of Marine Affairs who took the lead in combating the problem in Trinidad and Tobago, to learn more.