Sargassum removal trial planned in North Sound

| 29/07/2022 | 35 Comments
North Sound sargassum influx (photo provided by the DoE)

(CNS): There is no easy way of addressing the major influx of sargassum into the North Sound, Premier Wayne Panton said Thursday. Nevertheless, resources have been mobilised for a trial to pump out the invasive seaweed and reduce the impact it is having on the marine life and businesses operating in and around the area.

While this is not the first time that Grand Cayman has had to deal with sargassum, it is the first time that it has become trapped in the sound, so a different approach to the clean-up is needed, as the thick bed of seaweed is stuck in the water, among the mangroves and on the ironshore, Panton said

Government has signed a contract with a local private company and work started Friday at Garvin Park in West Bay, which is closed for the next few days, and will continue throughout the weekend. The aim is to pump as much of the sargassum out of the sea as possible, pushing the seawater that comes with it back and taking the seaweed to a disposal site.

When Premier Wayne Panton was asked about the issue at the National Census press conference on Thursday, he said it was challenging but the government was going to try different methods. Eventually, this could mean investing in a clean-up vessel for potential future events, but in the meantime they were using what resources are available to tackle the immediate problem.

Panton also dismissed claims made on social media by Deputy Leader of the Opposition Joey Hew, the environment minister in the previous administration, that he had left a plan and equipment in place. The premier pointed out that the current invasion of sargassum was not on the beach.

“Sorry to disappoint people; there is no plan,” Panton said. A beach rake had been bought, he noted. “But how does that help in the North Sound where it is mangrove and ironshore? That doesn’t do anything for that,” he stated, accusing Hew of playing political games. “The issue for us right now is, how do we address this without causing more damage?”

The Department of Environment and the Ministry of Sustainability and Climate Resiliency are now leading the response efforts, and they will also be developing a specific set of policies and plans to address the anticipated scenarios in relation to the ongoing sargassum problem. In a press release issued Friday, DoE Director Gina Ebanks-Petrie said the trial would determine the feasibility of the strategy, given the volume of sargassum.

“There are a number of environmental, public health and economic consequences of large-scale sargassum landings and the ongoing impacts on nearby residents, businesses and the marine environment require an appropriate response,” she said. “The DoE has contracted with a local service provider to trial removal of the sargassum from the water utilising a pumping system. This will determine whether the volumes that can be removed using this methodology are sufficient to make a meaningful difference.”

When sargassum washes up on local beaches, the DoE recommends leaving the seaweed on the beach to decompose, as this is usually the simplest option. Over time, the seaweed is washed away or buried by wave action, nourishing the beach and stabilising the shoreline without the risk of sand removal associated with beach grooming. In the North Sound, however, the seaweed is decomposing in the water, where it can reduce oxygen levels and light penetration, with the potential to negatively affect marine life.

“During seasons of particularly bad influxes, the Cayman Islands Government recognises the need for intervention, including the use of suitable equipment,” Ebanks-Petrie said. “During turtle nesting season, which we are in right now, our main concern is ensuring any turtle nests on beaches that need to be cleaned by equipment rather than by hand can be done safely and that we do not end up removing more beach than sargassum.”

A combination of interrelated factors, including prevailing winds and oceanic currents, contribute to whether floating sargassum lands on local shores or passes by the Cayman Islands, making it difficult to predict stranding events before they occur.

“The Department of Environment has access to NOAA’s predictive sargassum model, which alerted us to the fact that it would be a record year for sargassum in the Caribbean region. We are investigating the possibility of satellite tracking that will hopefully get us a bit closer to predicting the likelihood and location of large sargassum strandings,” Ebanks-Petrie said.

The DoE has developed informational materials and a seaweed removal enquiry form to help landowners determine when action is needed to address stranded sargassum and when it is best to let nature take its course.

These materials may be accessed on the DoE website here.

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Category: Marine Environment, Science & Nature

Comments (35)

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  1. Anonymous says:



  2. Anonymous says:

    Maybe you people could nuke it!? No one would know!


  3. Anonymous says:

    Please don’t mess with nature. Look what happened to SMB. That said, my heart does bleed for the beachfront mansions that have to swim in their pools (built on the beach) rather than the sea.

  4. Anonymous says:

    ‘plan is to pump out the sargassum’….?
    someone pass the popcorn…this will be a classic cayman wonderland cig failure.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Every time Joey hew opens his mouth it reminds me of a little child crying because he isn’t getting his own way.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Many species of marine life are in serious danger because of the reduced oxygen, reduced light, inability to surface, decomposition of seaweed producing toxicity.
    This is not to mention the effects of decomposing marine life as a result of this invasion.
    We are crying out for scientists when at the end of the day, all we need is common sense.
    As a species, we have disrespected the earth and its bounty.
    We have cocked a snoot at the Creator and we should stop bellyaching when we get our just desserts.
    No doubt this will be parlayed into an opportunity for the rulers of the kingdoms of the earth to demand a Carbon Tax from the rest of us poor, ignorant bastards.
    Some of us have been awake to these shennanigans for years. It will only get worse, but we will keep calling out the forces that seem incapable of telling the truth.

    • Anonymous says:

      Spoiler alert. The sargassum mat is so large, so neverending, that attempts to thwart are futile, similar to attempting to thwart Sahara dust, tropical storms, etc, etc

  7. Anonymous says:

    What’s next? Locusts, flies, frogs, mosquitoes, politicians?
    I think we’ve had some of those already.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Premier fact-checks the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. PPM just cannot accept not being in power.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Use it to fill the potholes.

  10. Anonymous says:

    CIG does nothing on plastic for years, but mobilizes the army when a natural phenomenon (full of life), makes a one time visit. This is the “conservation” gov’t too.

  11. Anonymous says:

    “You there. Yes, you. Rwmove this filth from my million dollar view.”

    “What do you mean where will it go?
    Anywhere but here, thats where!”

  12. Anonymous says:

    Wayne Panton playing King Canute – no doubt with the same outcome.

    • Anonymous says:

      I dont think you know Wayne or understand the real story of Canute! The latter knew full well he did not control the tides and the former knows full well there is only so much that can be done to deal with sargassum and that the real solution is stopping climate change and the nitrate pollution of the sea.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Why is it maroon colored?

    • Anonymous says:

      It changes colour as it builds up & rots. The ocean around it will also change colour from the rotting run off. Orange/brown/maroon – who cares. There’s loads of it.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Mr. Premier you are now seeing first hand of climate change yet you stand still against slowing development on island. How much more proof you need to stop development at the pace it’s going and stop bull dozing and tarring everything over.

    • Anonymous says:

      You dont think he understands that better than you do? Decide what you want to criticise him for – he is one man trying to impose reasonable controls on a system that is designed and desired by many to have none!

  15. Anonymous says:

    Least they waited for millions of fish to die first. 🤦‍♂️

  16. Anonymous says:

    OK, so how is it being removed? How is is it being transported? Where will it end up? How are the impacted areas prioritized for removal – High wealth properties vs high ecological valued properties? As expected, not a lot of transparency. However, I applaud any positive actions.

    • Anonymous says:

      Unfortunately they’re fully transparent. According to the article: “Sorry to disappoint people; there is no plan,” Panton said.

    • Anonymous says:

      👍👍 excellent questions.

    • Anonymous says:

      Removed by pump
      Into dump trucks (let water run off back into sea)
      Area chosen? Where it drifted in. (Garvin Park, a public space not a high net worth area.)
      There you go.

  17. Anonymous says:

    “Government has signed a contract with a local private company”

    I wonder who owns or benefits from this company? I hadn’t read anything about this job being put out to public tender.

  18. Anonymous says:

    I flew back from Tampa last week and during our descent in from the north there was a sargassum patch a few miles offshore of the north sound area that looked like another island (guessing but maybe like 1/5 of little cayman), it was absolutely massive!! Not to mention huge swatches/lines of the stuff in the area. Crazzzy.

    • Anonymous says:

      Yep. Anyone who has flown recently and looking out the window has seen miles of this stuff even at 40,000 ft.

      • Anonymous says:

        If you’re at 40,000’ you’re in a private jet and a bigger part of the footprint problem

        • Anonymous says:

          Nope, SW to ft Lauderdale a couple of weeks ago said it was 40,000 ft cruise up.

          • Anonymous says:

            Probably not 12:22, – the max certified service ceiling for the 737-700 (which SWest indicates if used for FLL to GCM) is 41,000’. The cruising altitude is 30,000’.

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