National Sargassum Clean-up - May 02 & May 03, 2015

What is Sargassum?

News Image - Sargassum Sea Weed on Barbados Beaches

Sargassum  (A seaweed which grows to several metres and floats in the ocean in island-like masses) has been inundating our beaches and those of many Caribbean countries. The berry-like structures are gassed-filled bladders that allow the plant to float. These free-floating species are propelled through the ocean by wind and currents and arrive onshore. While Sargassum arrival on the shores of Barbados is not a new phenomenon, the volume of algae arriving has increased dramatically. Large quantities of the sargassum began arriving on Barbados’ shores in 2011, with the heaviest influx occurring in March through April.

Will the Sargassum influx occur every year?

This cannot be determined at this time.  However current efforts to develop prediction & alert systems will promote a more proactive response.

Are there any health concerns?

News Image - Sargassum Sea Weed on Barbados' Beaches

The Large amounts of sargassum inundating some stretches of our coastline are having some negative impacts: blocking waterways, bays and beaches. This may provide some discomfort to beach users, swimmers, fishermen and boat operators. In some cases, marine litter may become entangled in the seaweed, fish may become trapped, both of which contribute to the odours and appearance of the seaweed while it decomposes. However, this process is NOT TOXIC & poses NO THREAT to humans. Nevertheless, you should not swim in areas where the Sargassum is stagnant and has started to decompose.

Impacted Beaches:

  • River Bay
  • Morgan Lewis
  • Long Pond
  • Lakes
  • Barclays Beach
  • Cattle Wash
  • Martins Bay
  • Bathsheba
  • Bath Beach
  • Consett Bay
  • Skeetes Bay
  • Culpepper
  • Bell Air’s Beach
  • Crane Beach
  • Long Beach
  • Chancery Lane
  • Silver Sands
  • Enterprise
  • Oistins
  • Welches
  • Dover Beach
  • Rockley
  • Hastings
  • Drill Hall

Benefits/how can it be used?

Although it may appear to be a nuisance to some, it does have its benefits. Some of the known benefits include the following:

  • It is a floating ecosystem that provides a habitat for turtles and other organisms
  • It provides forage for birds & other creatures (on the beach)
  • It helps to control soil erosion when deposited on the beach

It is utilized as soil ameliorant (aids plant growth primarily by improving the physical condition of the soil) by farmers, Plant Nurseries and Horticulturalists.

The Clean-up Effort Is Continuous

News Image - Sargassum Sea Weed on Barbados BeachesThe Ministry of the Environment & Drainage through the National Conservation Commission (N.C.C.), THE Coastal Zone Management Unit (C.Z.M.U.), the Environmental Protection Department (E.P.D.) in collaboration with the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Transport and Works, the Ministry of Tourism & International Transport have been arduously working to assiduously clean the beaches for locals and visitors but it has proven to be very challenging to keep the Sargassum at bay.

The method of removal has been site specific, with beaches that have no vehicular access posing the greatest challenge. Wide flat beaches offer the easiest option of removal, while rocky shorelines require manual removal which is time consuming and has not proven effective for long stretches of beaches because of the volume of seaweed being deposited.

While the need for removal is important, this process must be managed to ensure that the coastal areas are not degraded. Of particular concern is the preservation of sand, stones and gravel – the primary constituents of the beach as well as the preservation of beach vegetation which mitigates erosion. The vital components of the beach environment are protected under the Coastal Zone Management Act Section 28. Additionally, endangered sea turtles nest sites can be negatively impacted by heavy machinery which may crush buried nests and compact sand thereby making nesting more difficult.

In light of the above concerns, the following guidelines MUST be observed:

  • Permission to use mechanical equipment on beaches must be sought from the National Conservation Commission/Coastal Zone Management unit
  • Where the use of mechanical equipment is requested, the relevant authorizes  will assess each location and determine conditions for cleaning

In cases where authorization is given, a representative from the relevant authority must be on site to oversee the use of the equipment.

How to get involved

Now it’s time for a NATIONAL EFFORT. Join us at 6:00am. on May 02 & May 03, 2015 at (Skeets Bay, River Bay, Consett Bay, Bathsheba & Cattlewash/Barclays Park, Long Beach, Silver Sands, Foul Bay & Crane Beach) in an effort to reclaim OUR beaches.

Individuals/Service Clubs/Organized Groups/Environmental Groups/Organizations

Individuals/Service Clubs/Organized Groups/Organizations interested in cleaning beaches at locations that are not on the list indicated may do so. However, they are asked to contact the National Conservation Commission by April 27, 2015 to confirm their participation and to arrange for the collection of the seaweed.

Corporate Barbados

News Image - Corporate Barbados Assist

Participation of Corporate Barbados is critical to the success of this initiative. We are hoping that the business community will assist in the dissemination of pertinent information relating to the Sargassum and the proposed national response to their staff and solicit their participation. Corporate entities may wish to consider selecting a particular beach and arrange for their staff to assist in the clean-up effort under the banner/colours of their organization.


Further, the Commission is also requesting support through the provision of haulage trucks to assist with the collection and the subsequent transportation of the seaweed to designated sites and/or the donation of any of one or a combination of the items listed below:

  • Hand Rakes
  • Gloves
  • Garbage Bags
  • Dust Masks
  • Bottle water & Refreshments for Volunteers

This activity is an excellent opportunity for the business community to participate in a NATIONAL EFFORT that demonstrates the civic mindedness of individual organization and by extension Corporate Barbados.

TEL.:  (246) 425-1200
FAX.: (246) 424-9415