Sargassum invasion a ‘national emergency’ in Barbados

Sargassum on a beach in Barbados. Image: via Barbados Government Information Service
Energy

The government of Barbados is treating the massive accumulation of sargassum on the country’s east and south coasts as a national emergency, and is working to find ways to put the seaweed to beneficial use:

The influx of sargassum seaweed on beaches across Barbados is being treated as a national emergency by Government.

Topping the priority list in tackling the issue is its removal from seven beaches along the east and north coasts, but Government is also exploring alternatives for which it can be used, including converting it to a viable energy source.

“We believe that the sargassum is not just a problem but it is a resource, and we have to use it as a resource,” said Minister of Maritime Affairs and the Blue Economy, Kirk Humphrey, during a press briefing at Bath Beach on Friday.

He reasoned that the seaweed could be drained and taken to the Sustainable Barbados Recycling Centre where it could be used.

“We are also in conversation with the private sector to use the seaweed to create energy so that it is not just taken and wasted. We have already seen that it can work. It can be created into real energy so that it can be used to fuel Barbadian households and help the country,” the Minister said.

Mr. Humphrey explained that the University of the West Indies had already started research on converting the seaweed into energy, but stressed that it had to be done at a time when it was golden.

“What we are getting here now is something of value. We consider it harvesting the seaweed because we can use it for something else,” he said.

Meanwhile, as part of the response to the national emergency, Barbados Defence Force personnel have been deployed to Bath Beach, St. John; Skeete’s Bay, Foul Bay, Crane, St. Philip; Silver Sands/Enterprise, Long Beach area in Christ Church; Barclays Park and the East Coast, St. Andrew to begin the process of removing the seaweed from the shoreline.

Chief of Staff of the BDF, Colonel Glyne Grannum, said the state agency was proud to be a part of the effort. He added that the BDF had already established a distinct Coordination Centre designed to assist with the coordination of Government and non-governmental organisations, private citizens, and to harness the effort to deal with information management.

Furthermore, he stated the BDF had also employed an unmanned aerial vehicle to scan the nearshore coastal area to determine the threat from further offshore. That scan, he said, would allow officials to see how many waves of the seaweed were likely to come ashore and within what timeline.

“Within the next 24 hours we should be going out on a further surveillance and recognisance mission to get a sense of what is further offshore, to be able to harness that information into decision making relative to the deployment of troops, the deployment of the joint inter-agency community of effort which is needed to deal with the threat,” the Chief-of-Staff said.

See the full report from the Barbados Government Information Service.

Previously on Green Antilles: Innovative community-based solutions for the sargassum problem in Saint Lucia.

[Image: via  Barbados Government Information Service]

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