Algas Organics proposes solutions for combating sargassum
Saturday, February 29th, 2020
In recent years, sargassum has been taking over the beaches in San Pedro and other coastal communities. Typically, sargassum season runs from April through August in Belize, but with global environmental changes, it has been appearing earlier and in larger quantities along our shores. The influx has affected many businesses located on the beach, as it releases a strong foul smell when it decays and creates dead zones around the shore. On Wednesday, February 27th, Algas Organics, in collaboration with the Belize Tourism Industry Association (BTIA), held a presentation for stakeholders on their solution for turning sargassum into something positive.
Algas Organics is the Caribbean’s first indigenous agriculture biotechnology company. Based in St. Lucia, their focus is on the development of environmentally friendly agricultural inputs. The company currently exports its products within the Caribbean region and recently started exporting to Belize in 2019. The company was founded in 2014 by CEO Johanan Dujon, who led the presentation to hoteliers and business owners from the island. His proposal centered on conduction individual surveys to the affected areas and bringing their equipment to collect the sargassum and take it away for processing and conversion into fertilizer and bio-pesticides.
Dujon’s second proposal to the stakeholders was the possibility of opening a processing plant in Belize, which many agreed would be a great idea not only for the removal of the sargassum but also for creating employment for Belizeans. Glenford Eiley, Vice Chairman of the Belize Tourism Board (BTB), reached out to Dujon after he found out about the work Algas has done around the Caribbean region. He told The San Pedro Sun that he sees a tremendous opportunity and a viable solution to the sargassum with the proposals Algas presented.
This is just one of many approaches to tackling the sargassum issue which has been a growing problem since 2014 when it first started being recorded. In 2019, it was so extreme that many businesses reported losses in profit and a decrease in tourism due to the foul smell and unpleasant appearance. The Sargassum Task Force, a public-private sector committee, was formed in April 2017 with entities from the BTIA, the Ministry of Tourism, the BTB, the Department of Environment, and other agencies. They strategize mitigation efforts and adaptation measures to address the impact of sargassum. In late 2018, the Cabinet approved a set of relief support for beachfront properties, namely a $1.5 million tax relief fund and a two percent waiver of the nine percent hotel tax that they pay in their monthly accommodation tax returns. The 1.5 million was distributed to the affected municipalities of San Pedro, Caye Caulker, Hopkins, and Placencia through the BTB, while the tax break remained in effect from October 2018 to January 2019. Resorts have been experimenting with different methods such as hiring additional staff for daily cleanups, constructing barriers to prevent it from reaching their beaches and investing in machinery to rake the beach. The efforts trickled down to island residents who have organized their own cleanup campaigns and collaborative efforts with the San Pedro Town Council such as the massive community cleanup in September 2018. Residents came out and within different groups, cleaned the area stretching from Boca del Rio to the Mosquito Coast south of San Pedro Town. In May 2019, Mexican entrepreneur Omar Vasquez Sanchez proposed to stakeholders in a presentation that his method of using sargassum as bricks to build houses could be a viable solution. The sargassum seaweed crisis continues to affect the coasts of many countries within the Caribbean Sea, southern Mexico, and the Central American region.
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