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Double dose

HEATHER-LYNN EVANSON, [email protected]

Double dose

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The Sargassum seaweed blanketing the East Coast beaches proved to be good and bad last Saturday.

While it has trapped countless pieces of plastic and prevented them from being washed back out to sea, it however made things difficult for a team of volunteers who were intent on ridding the beach of that plastic.

On Saturday, marine biologist and underwater photographer Lucy Agace and at least ten other people descended on the beaches along the Ermy Bourne Highway in St Andrew.

But they were confronted with mounds of seaweed, some at least two feet deep, which were covering the sand from water’s edge to the grassy area.

“The scale of seaweed and the garbage is kinda daunting because this time last year there wasn’t any seaweed, so it was much easier to clean.

“It has hindered,” said Agace, as she took a break from pulling lengths of rope and fishing net from among the sand.

“Yes, it has hindered because it’s covering things up.

“Yes, we do have a Sargassum seaweed problem. There are two areas – there is one up in the Caribbean Sea and one off the coast of South America – and we seem to be in the middle of them both. Depending on the currents, I think we get double whammy. But I think what it does, it acts as a net for the plastic. So when it does dump, it is dumping it with a lot more plastic than it used to,” she explained.

She said the most difficult part was picking tiny pieces of plastic from among the brown mat of seaweed. Those small pieces were everywhere, but could only be seen when they were at the top.

“The hard part is picking these things up but this is it and they are everywhere,” she said. 

Agace explained that she conceptualised the clean-up because even though no one knew from where the marine debris and plastic came, once it was on the beach “it could well go back into the sea”.

“This beach faces the Atlantic and it just always seems to have plastic on it because we are the first island that it will hit. It will go past and hit Grenada, St Lucia and St Vincent, I am sure, but we seem to get the brunt of it.

“And the whole point is to stop it going back into the sea. Where we can, we recycle it,” she said.

She surmised the clean-up might have to be done at least three times a year to keep ahead of the marine debris problem. (HLE)