Tuesday, July 16, 2024

San Pedro’s coast smothered by Sargassum; stakeholders ask town authorities to do more


Island residents are growing concerned about the massive influx of Sargassum beaching on the coast of San Pedro, Ambergris Caye. In some areas, thick blankets of the well-known brown seaweed are over a hundred feet from the shore. Some stakeholders see the vast amount of algae as a threat to the tourism industry and are urging the respective authorities to address the issue. The San Pedro Town Council (SPTC) has responded by hiring more people to remove Sargassum from the most affected areas, like the beaches in the downtown area.
The SPTC asks interested people to apply for a temporary job at their offices on Barrier Reef Drive or call 226-2198 to request further information. The job may extend to a permanent position with the town council. While they wait for people to apply, Sargassum’s heavy influx continues accumulating. Stakeholders complain that the sanitation personnel at the SPTC are not removing the Sargassum promptly, while other concerned residents shared that the seaweed has been choking beaches at central park and other nearby areas for days. They suggest removing the seaweed daily.
As it is, the task will be more difficult due to the accumulated Sargassum smothering the shoreline, and it will take days and an army of people to remove the rotting seaweed. The SPTC led a project by building a temporary Sargassum barrier to guide the Sargassum to designated areas for easier removal from the beach. The border was installed between the Mayan Princess Hotel beach and the municipal dock near Central Park. This mechanism seemed overwhelmed on Friday, March 10th, as a barrier section collapsed. Sargassum was everywhere and appeared not to have been guided to a pick-up area.
Those studying the situation, like local biodiversity scientist Valentine Rosado is currently working on a project to help the SPTC manage the situation. He said the Sargassum situation could be tackled with nature-based solutions such as identifying sea currents and applying mechanisms to make Sargassum removal more efficient. Another benefit of nature-based solutions is the increased infrastructure resilience to the impacts of such natural phenomena.
Stakeholders asked to help
While the SPTC is trying to hire more personnel to keep the beaches Sargassum free, they call on stakeholders and everyone on the island to help. They lauded the efforts of Ramon’s Village and Alaia Hotel beach resorts, who try to keep their beachfront areas as clean as possible for their guests. “The Sargassum situation is bigger than all of us and requires a community effort to keep our beaches clean,” the SPTC said. They said the situation is overwhelming, and when residents see their neighbours cleaning their areas, they are encouraged to join the efforts as the local administration cannot address the problem on its own.
Area Representative, Honourable Andre Perez, mentioned that they are working on a plan that will involve the capture of the Sargassum before it reaches the shore. He briefly said that the necessary studies are complete to obtain the equipment needed to tackle the mats of the seaweed. Perez added that the Hol Chan Marine Reserve, the SPTC, and Caye Caulker Village Council are involved in this project to address the Sargassum dilemma better.
The Sargassum bloom is usually more visible on the Belizean coasts during this part of the year; however, the influx this time is considered more significant than last year. The latest Sargassum forecast from the National Meteorological Service of Belize indicates that satellite imagery continues to show a high concentration of Sargassum. As such, more mats are expected to drift ashore in the coming days. The areas impacted include San Pedro, Caye Caulker, Hopkins, and Placencia in southern Belize.

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