Sargassum trial stalled as seaweed decomposes

| 02/08/2022 | 34 Comments
  • Cayman News Service
  • Cayman News Service

(CNS): The trial to remove the massive influx of sargassum stranded in the North Sound using a pumping system has come to an abrupt end after just a few days because the level of decomposition of the seaweed made continued removal efforts impractical, according to the Department of Environment.

The pilot project started over the weekend and was supposed to continue through this week, but after removing around over 2,880 square feet, the rapid degradation of the sargassum has made the pumping process impossible.

After the sargassum landed and became stuck in the North Sound on Saturday, 23 July, the government mobilised emergency funding to secure the services of an unnamed private contractor to undertake the seaweed removal by Wednesday. The trial began on Friday evening and continued over the weekend.

“Given the success over the weekend, we were hopeful the pumping system would continue to be effective this week and extended the closure of Garvin Park accordingly,” DoE Director Gina Ebanks-Petrie said. “Unfortunately, the sargassum started to rapidly decompose, impacting the ability of the pumps to continue functioning effectively.”

She added, “We know a lot more now about what worked and what did not. Every stranding event will be unique, so long-term scenario mapping and response planning will be crucial to ensuring we are better prepared for the next event.”

Local influxes of sargassum are driven by various external factors, including climate change, representing an emerging long-term issue for the Cayman Islands and islands throughout the Caribbean.

Premier and Minister of Sustainability and Climate Resiliency Wayne Panton said, “This is not an issue unique to the Cayman Islands and there is no ‘magic bullet’ solution for sargassum responses. Many other countries in the Caribbean are facing similar, large-scale stranding events and we are all trying to figure out how to effectively anticipate and manage them in ways which may be appropriate to our circumstances.”

Panton added, “The government is staying abreast of the emerging research in terms of how to respond to these events, how to predict when and where they may occur, and potential end uses for any collected seaweed. We look forward to collaborating with a variety of public and private stakeholders as we develop the policies and plans necessary to address future Sargassum landing events.”

When sargassum washes up on local beaches, leaving it to decompose is usually the best option, especially during the turtle nesting season. 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.

However, the situation in the North Sound presents a new dilemma because the seaweed is stuck on top of the water, wrapped around the mangroves or decomposing on the ironshore. As a result, officials were seeking a very different approach to the clean-up effort.

Chief Officer Jennifer Ahearn said lessons were learned from this trial that will inform future removal efforts and a longer-term national response plan.

“The sargassum stranding in the North Sound is unlike any we have experienced previously in terms of its location, weather conditions and scale, demonstrating the need for scenario mapping inclusive of the private sector, which can deliver the innovations needed to manage future influx events,” she said.

“The trial removed more than 2,880 square feet of seaweed and the teams on the ground learned a lot about the parameters for success using this method. Unfortunately, the seaweed has now degraded to the point where pumping it out is no longer feasible,” Ahearn added.

Officials have not yet indicated if they are going to try a different approach to try to remove this influx or if they intend to allow nature to take its course. Meanwhile, since the trial has ended, Garvin Park has been reopened to the general public.

See the DoE website for information on safe beach seaweed removal.

Share your vote!

How do you feel after reading this?
  • Fascinated
  • Happy
  • Sad
  • Angry
  • Bored
  • Afraid
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Tags: , ,

Category: Marine Environment, Science & Nature

Comments (34)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Anonymous says:

    “The trial removed more than 2,880 square feet of seaweed and the teams on the ground learned a lot about the parameters for success using this method. Unfortunately, the seaweed has now degraded to the point where pumping it out is no longer feasible,” said Ahearn.
    Translation from government babble into plain English: “The quantity of seaweed removed was equivalent to a mole on an elephant’s arse. The effort was futile from the beginning. Trying to remove the seaweed with the puny pump was never feasible.”

  2. Anonymous says:

    They couñd utilize poachers that they catch to clear this as community service, no pay, just a bucket….

  3. Noname says:

    Now that the sargassum is trapped within the sound the present mass is captive and capable of self sustaining itself. No surprise there. Next step is a die off of sea life all around the sounds present all around the island and most probably the canals.

    Since 2020, I was afraid the problem would manifest itself with a vengeance as soon as the cruise ships came back into action as they provide the mass of sargassum still at sea with ample runoff (release of black and grey waters) , I wish i had been wrong on this one ! They are not the only guilty party (in an order of scale they represent maybe 15 percent of the effect, the main drivers being slower currents, weaker thermoclines and increased sea surface temperatures) on that one but they certainly exacerbate the trends in motion.

    The big issue is that the growth of the algae once trapped becomes geometric (think of a pile of gold that doubles each half of the previous interval starting with a 1 week interval for as long as conditions remain favorable). It will only stop when there isn’t not enough nutrients to maintain the cycle (by that time most sea life is already gone due to hypoxia) .

    The only solution in store is reducing runoffs from agriculture without endangering food supplies and putting together massive collection efforts and treatment to insert the collected mass into either the energy cycle or the nutrient cycle.

  4. # CaymanGlobal says:

    Collect sargassum transport to shredding site at Spotts or Prospect. Shred the mix with existing soil stockpile and use on roads and sea erosion areas and coastal roads Come on Cayman let’s look for solutions together.

  5. Anonymous says:

    There are read-made solutions for this. Use of booms and specialized marine equipment. End of story. Just stop dithering and bite the bullet already. Create a few permanent jobs.

    Here is one example:

  6. Anonymous says:

    It was an exercise in futility and waste of public funds from the start! The “unnamed contractor” is laughing all the way to his bank.

    Meanwhile…we the paying public just pass it off with our comments and nothing else. The powers that be will simply find another way to waste and give away our money to friends and family.

    OAG is a “look see” in order?

  7. Anonymous says:

    Leave nature alone and adapt to it

  8. Anonymous says:

    This could have been removed by now, if acted on immediately. Barges with excavators with special screened buckets. The experts (Scotts brothers) should have been consulted.

  9. Anonymous says:

    2,880 square feet of seaweed was removed? Come on… the size of the average 4 bedroom house in Cayman… you got to be kidding me. All this fuss and likely expense and the results are paltry at best. Only reason this NS seaweed got all the attention is because it started rolling into ‘high net worth’ territory… what about all the folks that have been suffering with it for years on South side, Boddentown, Pease Bay, East End… not a lick done but now all of a sudden its important cause it entered the sound? nonsense … roll up better than that folks.

    • Anonymous says:

      Another way to look at it is it was an area a little larger than 50’ X 50’. And how many days did it take to remove that? Obviously not a viable solution. This could have been calculated based on the pump capacity without spending a dime.

      • Anonymous says:

        What are you suggesting? That The PACTless Clown Car use logical and objective criteria to make decisions?
        My God, man! That would be heresy!

  10. Anonymous says:

    …the government mobilised emergency funding to secure the services of an unnamed private contractor…

    I’ll repeat it again until someone with brains reads it: contact The Ocean Cleanup , a non-profit organization. They employ the best world’s minds in the field of the Oceans/Rivers clean up.
    They specialize in technology to clean waterways/ oceans from plastic. They have presence in the Caribbean-Jamaica for example. There are different interceptions for different purposes. Stop wasting money on amateurs. Talk to The Ocean Cleanup. See what they say.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Sisyphean labor 🤦‍♀️

    But WHOSE idea it was in the first place?

    • Anonymous says:

      Sisyphus: Whisky.

      Bartender: On the rocks?

      Sisyphus: Buddy, it’s been a long day and I am not in the mood.

  12. Anonymous says:

    2,880 sf cleared?…thats the size of an average house!
    cig and civil service literally cannot go 5 mins without making absolute fools of themselves.
    laughable stuff except it ain’t one bit funny.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Unnamed private contractor? Hmmmm.

    Follow the money.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Why can’t Ms Ahearn speak plain English?

    • Anonymous says:

      Because using inflated language impresses her handlers and peers. It also softens the hard failure and gives the false impression she’s adequately managing the situation. She’s good at it, she’s had plenty of practice. There have been many grave failures on her watch.

  15. Anonymous says:

    J. Ahearn is on it so there’s bound to be some swift action🤦‍♂️. Let’s see if anyone can spot the sargassum. Oops I spelled it wrong

  16. Elvis says:

    Queue the benny hill theme tune.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Excuses and more excuses. Didn’t someone around table didn’t think the thing would rot? Just how much did we throw away this time?

  18. Anonymous says:

    Tell me why this couldn’t have been started a week earlier when the problem was worse?

  19. Anonymous says:

    Who’s in charge of that idiocracy??

  20. Anonymous says:

    The Monty Python theme song is most appropriate.

  21. Anonymous says:

    Didn’t work… What a surprise.

  22. Anonymous says:

    The usual shambolic incompetence from cig….
    No surprises to anyone with a brain…the dogs in the streets knew what would happen.


Leave a Reply to # CaymanGlobal Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.