Thursday, May 30, 2024

SPTC to hire temporary workers to help deal with influx of sargassum; SPTC to hold a community meeting addressing the issue

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The San Pedro Town Council (SPTC) announced on Monday, May 9th, that it is seeking to hire temporary beach cleaners to keep these areas free of sargassum. Any person interested can visit the Human Resources department at the SPTC during regular working hours, Monday to Friday, 8AM to 5PM. SPTC will also be holding a Sargassum Community Meeting on Wednesday, May 11th, at 5PM in the SPTC Conference Room. Business owners, boat owners, property owners, and residents of San Pedro are invited.

The latest report from the National Meteorological Service of Belize forecasts more of the brown seaweed heading towards the Belizean Caribbean coast. Places like Ambergris Caye are inundated with the massive beaching of the algae, making the country’s beaches unattractive to visitors. Not only is it unsightly, but when it begins to decay on the beaches, it releases a strong foul smell. Furthermore, it kills the marine life on the shoreline by suffocating these out of oxygen. It has triggered an urgency to rid public areas of the smelly and annoying problem, whether a threat to local marine life or tourism.

In addition to the severe sargassum news, a regional report from experts at the University of South Florida, Miami, USA, revealed that seaweed biomass has increased from 6.5 million tons in March to 14.0 million tons in April. This significant growth of sargassum and constant influx of the sea plant is destined for Belizean shores.

Sargassum has always been a problem during this time of the year, and the amount washing ashore fluctuates every year. When there is a high surge in its biomass, the local and national governments activate the Sargassum Task Force (STF). In the past, it has comprised of bodies such as the Ministry of Tourism, the Belize Tourism Board, the Belize Tourism Industry Association, the Belize Hotel Association, the Department of Environment, the Belize Fisheries Department, the Ministry of Health, the National Meteorological Service of Belize, the National Emergency Management Organization, the Coastal Zone Management Authority Institute, the Belize Network of Non-Governmental Organizations, the Belize Port of Authority, the respective Local Governments, among other partners. The STF was established in 2015, and while it seems they go dormant, the group always remains active. When the sargassum conditions become alarming, as they currently are, the STF meets and discusses ways how to tackle the emergency. The national Sargassum Task Force met on Friday, May 6th, and is now asking each destination to submit a plan of action and formal assistance request by Friday, May 13th. The Belize Hotel Association has volunteered to coordinate these meetings in Caye Caulker, San Pedro, Placencia, and Hopkins in conjunction with the respective Village/Town Councils in each destination.

In late 2018, Cabinet approved a set of relief support mechanisms, including a four-month hotel tax relief for accommodations situated on the beachfront and a duty exemption facility for machinery and equipment imported to support clean-up efforts of the sargassum. There was also a BZ $1.5 million to support municipalities for beach clean-ups.

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