Huge Sargassum masses detected at the northern coast of Aruba

ORANJESTAD - A few weeks ago big masses of Sargassum seaweed was detected approaching the northern coast of the island.

This occurrence has been detected more frequently since 2011 in the Caribbean. The massive drifts affects the marine resources, fishing, beaches and tourism. In 2014 and 2015 the seaweed masses reached the Caribbean islands once more.

Sargassum seaweed on the northern coast of ArubaThe Department of Nature and Environment (DNM) closely monitors this occurrence and wants to inform the community on the procedures to handle this event.

So far the seaweed is only concentrated on the northern coast of Aruba which has no direct impact on the beach users and since it is a natural phenomenon and does not present any harm to the public health, no action will be taken.

What is Sargassum?

Pelagic Sargassum is a brown algae, better known as seagrass or seaweed that floats on the surface of the ocean. They are frequently seen in the Atlantic Ocean in the so called Sargasso Sea and move with the ocean’s currents. This movement is hard to track but not impossible.  The Sargassum weed is very important for the migrating species and forms a habitat for more than 120 fish species and another 120 other species like turtles, shrimps, squids etc.

In what scenarios will the DNM act?

Scenario 1

The current affected area is only the northern coast. In 2018 in a meeting with the Bureau for Disaster relief (BRA) it was agreed upon not to clean the affected northern coast and to let nature take care of this.

Scenario 2 
In the event the Sargassum bloom reaches the popular beaches like Arashi, Palm Beach, Eagle Beach, Baby Beach & Rodgers Beach, the Government entities agreed to do a clean-up with the assistance of both private as public organizations.

Sargassum seaweed on the northern coast of ArubaSargassum is a natural occurrence and serves an important role in the nutrition of the beaches. It serves an important role in the stability of the coast as well as a nutritional source for birds. A prolonged period of Sargassum on the beach will cause an unpleasant odor. It will make swimming also nearly impossible and very unpleasant. Keep in mind that this occurrence is temporary and the best way to deal with this is to let nature take its course. The use of rakes heavy equipment should be avoided since this can have a negative impact on the coastline.

The DNM encourages all to have patience with this occurrence and recommends to use the  beaches not affected by the Sargassum seaweed.  DO NOT CLEAN UP sargassum seaweed unless the Bureau for Disaster Relief officially announces this.

Do not remove the seaweed as this will only accelerate the erosion of the beach. More harm is caused by removing the seaweed. Do not applying product on the seaweed and do not use any machines or heavy equipment on the beach.

Sargassum seaweed on the northern coast of ArubaOnce this occurrence is better understood, it will be easier to provide more information to the visitors.

The decision to not intervene or disturb nature coincides with the worldwide established agreements during the international summit to establish the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). SDG #13, SDG #14, SDG#15 are just a few goals set for the best management practices for the knowledge and flow of the Sargassum.

In the event the Sargassum seaweed reaches the popular beaches on the southern coastline and is more than 3 cm (over 1”) thick, this should be reported to the DNM at 584 1199 or BRA at 588 0100