Most beach goers around the Caribbean and the Gulf Coast are familiar with the plant pictured below.
It’s called sargasso/sargassum and it’s a seaweed (technically a macro-algae) that grows unrooted or floating atop the water. It is common on shorelines throughout the tropics. And as far as sea debris goes, in small amounts, it’s pretty non-offensive. As a kid, I remember popping the little air pocket much like you would pop the bubble wrap used for packing material.
Those little, snappy bubbles are what keep the stuff afloat.
And a smattering of Sargasso on the beach…no big deal at all…
But beaches around the Caribbean…scratch that…around the world have been seeing a HUGE influx of this sea plant over the past few years. A sargasso surge. You can find articles galore – about the battles along the coasts of Texas, Florida especially the Keys and as far south as Trinidad & Tobago and as far west as Sierra Leone, Africa.
Like many of those spots, the coast all along Belize (it’s not just Ambergris Caye) has seen one of the biggest floods of the seaweed in recent memory.
Some spots not so bad…
and some a bit worse. Here is a “sargasso sunrise” a few miles south of Grand Caribe taken earlier this week.
Armed with rakes, wheel barrows, tractors and pitch forks, workers at many resorts are working furiously to keep the beaches clean. Many places have hired temporary teams to clean up the shoreline.
But what exactly is this plant that is washing up on beaches in the Caribbean and Atlantic? Where is it coming from?
It’s a completely natural phenomena, governed by so many different things that I’m not sure we are going to get exact answers but for seaweed? It is surprisingly interesting stuff. Let me tell you a little bit about what I found.
The Sargasso Sea is located in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean miles and miles from any land. Surrounded and controlled by various currents, the winds and the weather…
…the “sea” has been called “the golden rainforest of the ocean” – for the color of the plants and the amazing diversity it shelters. Within these swirling currents is a relatively calm and warm body of water – over 2 million square miles (or about 225 Belizes) – where the sargasso flourishes and sea life flocks.
The sargassum, as food and shelter, provides a nursery for young turtles, sea horses, snails, swordfish and countless other sea life and a haven for those who like to…well…like to eat them. Sharks, humpback whales, dolphins and sea birds all arrive to feed.
Because of this, there are many important environmental groups that are lobbying for protection of this “sea” within a sea.
Locals in San Pedro can tell you that this is an abnormally high sargasso season but the seaweed itself is nothing new. Sargasso has been used in Belize for years as fill to prevent beach erosion, to pack in pot holes in the sand roads and, once rinsed, it is perfect for fertilizer and gardening.
Did I convince you that sargasso is interesting? Either way…we at Grand Caribe Resort totally understand that our guests and residents want to enjoy the spectacular Belize sea.
All of these pictures below were taken on property yesterday afternoon.
We have one of the largest crews on the caye committed to keeping our beach clear and beautiful. And we think we are doing a pretty good job.
And while Mother Nature sometimes gets the best of us for a few hours, especially first thing in the morning, there are always our gorgeous pools or our beautiful dock with both a lounge area and the crystal clear ocean right off it perfect for swimming and snorkeling…
Can you think of anything more beautiful?
This rake was retired early yesterday at Grand Caribe but our beach crew is always ready at sunrise if and when they are needed. The Sargasso Squad. Keep up the great work gentlemen!