West Florida’s Beaches Under Threat Due To The Spread Of Seaweed Sargassum
BY: Maria Valencia
The Great Atlantic Sargassum Belt currently has a record-breaking 13 million tons of seaweed, equal to the amount measured a month earlier, and it is now expanding westward.
According to a joint analysis from the University of South Florida and NASA, the total mass of stinky kelp is expected to “increase substantially” as prevailing currents and winds drive it westward. In addition, more beaching incidents are anticipated in the Gulf of Mexico.
According to researchers, the eastern Atlantic’s persistent clouds are to blame for the lack of change. But it won’t likely continue for long.
“It’s a train, which is a trailer; this stuff is 5,000 miles long and about 300 miles wide,” said Steven Leatherman, Ph.D., a Florida International University in Miami earth and environment professor. “So this is the largest one we’ve ever seen.”
Strong winds and currents, according to scientists, are slowly transporting seaweed to locations like Key West while they wait for the rest of it to arrive.
“When it’s offshore, environmental laws do not allow us, even if it’s up against the beach, to take it out of the water. We can only take it where it actually comes ashore,” said Alyson Crean, the City of Key West public information officer.
Although coastal populations are accustomed to this particular type of seaweed, the current level is already problematic.
“We rake our beaches every day. This is always the case because our beaches are small and it’s easy to do, and it keeps the visitors happy,” Crean said.
June and July are when seaweed blooms most abundantly.
While the seaweed itself doesn’t pose a concern, the microscopic sea animals that dwell in it can cause skin rashes or blisters, according to Florida health officials, who are warning the public about a wave of seaweed that smells like rotten eggs.
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