Nature Foundation Warns That Residents of Guana Bay, Point Blanche Starting to Experience Adverse Health Effects Due to Large Amounts of Decomposing Sargassum Seaweed

sargassum seaweed on beach

COLE BAY – The St. Maarten Nature Foundation is warning that residents of coastal communities are starting to experience adverse health effects due to gasses released by decomposing Sargassum seaweed. In particular residents of Guana Bay and Point Blanch have requested the Nature Foundation to look into the matter: “We have been coordinating our monitoring efforts with local stakeholders and our partners in the region on how best to approach the issue. We know a lot has been said of using the Sargassum as fertilizer but at this point there is no feasible option without government support to tackle the issue. We need to find a way to coordinate the removal of the seaweed with heavy loaders which causes serious risks to nesting sea turtles and hatchlings while the grass itself can be a hazard to the animals,”

We are advising as much as we can residents in especially Guana Bay and Point Blanche to keep windows and doors closed as much as possible. But unfortunately based on weather predictions and aerial surveys there is a significant amount of the seaweed still headed in our general vicinity,” commented Nature Foundation Manager Tadzio Bervoets.

When the Sargassum lands and starts to decompose hydrogen sulfide gas is released. The gas is colorless, toxic and highly flammable gas and spreads an unpleasant odor much like the smell of rotten eggs; “Inhaling the gas in small doses can trigger irritation of the eyes and the respiratory system, especially among people who are sensitive to it. The groups at risk are people with respiratory problems, asthma patients, elderly people, babies and pregnant women. Certain animals, especially dogs, are also sensitive to the inhalation of hydrogen sulphide,” continued Bervoets

Sargassum first plagued the Caribbean and St. Maarten in 2011 and 2012, with the Foundation having to warn swimmers to avoid swimming in Guana Bay in August and September due to the large amount of Sargassum weed and many beachfront residences and hotels having to continuously clean washed up Sargassum.

The Nature Foundation will continue to monitor the situation and will issue updates as information becomes available.

sargassum point blanche
Aerial photo of freshly landed and decomposing Sargassum in Point Blanche

Sint Maarten Nature Foundation Responds to Sargassum Related Fish Die-Off in Oysterpond

The Sint Maarten Nature Foundation over the weekend responded to a significant fish-die off event occurring in the Oysterpond wetland. The event is related to the present sargassum invasion the country is currently experiencing. “We have been at the area in Oysterpond for a few days now monitoring the situation and it is serious. Due to the amount of sargassum decomposing in the Oysterpond Wetland there has been a drop in oxygen levels in the water resulting in numerous organisms dying. Up to now we have recorded about fifteen species of fish as well as lobster being affected significantly,” commented Nature Foundation Manager Tadzio Bervoets. The Nature Foundation is also urging the community not to consume the dead fish.

sargassum seaweed on beach
Sargassum Oyster Pond

The Sargassum is entering Oysterpond through the inlet at Dawn Beach and has been settling and decomposing in the area. Residents of the area have also been complaining about the smell released by the decomposing sargassum seaweed.

The present sargassum invasion affecting the wider Caribbean is one of the worst since the large-scale invasion began in 2011. Although there is no general consensus on the cause of the increased sargassum affecting the Caribbean it is generally believed to be caused by climate change and increased nutrients being introduced into the ocean, both of which are human influences.

‘We have been exploring options to have the seaweed removed and have it be turned into a profitable industry here on the island, however there has to be an investment from both the public and private sectors in combating the invasion. We should also realize that this event is related to Climate Change and again we are at the forefront of a climate induced issue, just like the 2017 Hurricane Season. We are constantly receiving updates on the status of the invasion and unfortunately there is quite a bit more sargassum on its way,” concluded Bervoets.

Nature Foundation Warns About Increased Potential for Large Scale Sargassum Invasion

COLE BAY:—- The St. Maarten Nature Foundation is warning of a potential significant influx of Sargassum seaweed in the coming days: “We have been coordinating our monitoring efforts with our partners in the region and based on weather predictions, sattelite imagery and aerial surveys there is a significant amount of the seaweed headed in our general vicinity.

“We have been really trying to work both with our partners in the region and with local stakeholders to monitor the situation and to find a way to control the amount of the weed washing up on beaches in the case of a significant influx. In the case of an influx we need to find a way to coordinate the removal of the seaweed with heavy loaders which causes serious risks to nesting sea turtles and hatchlings while the grass itself can be a hazard to the animals. Uncoordinated seaweed removal can also cause significant erosion on affected beaches,” commented Nature Foundation Manager Tadzio Bervoets.

“Economically speaking there is a serious effect that seagrass can have on the beaches of the island. As soon as the grass is cleared it is being deposited back on the beach by the wind and currents. We will continue to work towards researching the effects of the grass and some possible solutions but at this point Sint Maarten, like many islands in the Caribbean, are being heavily impacted,” continued Bervoets.

Sargassum is a genus of brown (class Phaeophyceae) seaweed which is distributed throughout the temperate and tropical oceans of the world. Most of the Sargassum Seaweed lies concentrated in the Sargassum Sea, a region in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean surrounded by ocean currents. It is bounded on the west by the Gulf Stream; on the north, by the North Atlantic Current; on the east, by the Canary Current; and on the south, by the North Atlantic Equatorial Current.

Sargassum first plagued the Caribbean and St. Maarten in 2011 and 2012, with the Foundation having to warn swimmers to avoid swimming in Guana Bay in August and September due to the large amount of Sargassum Weed and many beach front residences and hotels having to continuously clean washed up Sargassum.

The Nature Foundation will continue to monitor the situation and will issue releases as information becomes available.

Nature Foundation Warns About Potential for Increased Sargassum Invasion

COLE BAY – The St. Maarten Nature Foundation is again warning of a potential influx of Sargassum seaweed in the coming weeks: “We have been coordinating our monitoring efforts with our partners in the region and based on weather predictions and aerial surveys there is a significant amount of the seaweed headed in our general vicinity.
“We have been really trying to work both with our partners in the region and with local stakeholders to monitor the situation and to find a way to control the amount of the weed washing up on beaches in the case of a significant influx. In the case of an influx we need to find a way to coordinate the removal of the seaweed with heavy loaders which causes serious risks to nesting sea turtles and hatchlings while the grass itself can be a hazard to the animals,” commented Nature Foundation Manager Tadzio Bervoets.
“Economically speaking there is a serious effect that seagrass can have on the beaches of the island. As soon as the grass is cleared it is being deposited back on the beach by the wind and currents. We will continue to work towards researching the effects of the grass and some possible solutions but at this point Sint Maarten, like many islands in the Caribbean, are being heavily impacted,” continued Bervoets.
Sargassum is a genus of brown (class Phaeophyceae) seaweed which is distributed throughout the temperate and tropical oceans of the world. Most of the Sargassum Seaweed lies concentrated in the Sargassum Sea, a region in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean surrounded by ocean currents. It is bounded on the west by the Gulf Stream; on the north, by the North Atlantic Current; on the east, by the Canary Current; and on the south, by the North Atlantic Equatorial Current.
Sargassum first plagued the Caribbean and St. Maarten in 2011 and 2012, with the Foundation having to warn swimmers to avoid swimming in Guana Bay in August and September due to the large amount of Sargassum Weed and many beach front residences and hotels having to continuously clean washed up Sargassum.

The Nature Foundation will continue to monitor the situation and will issue releases as information becomes available.