Caribbean struggles with smelly seaweed invasion

Beach-goers in the Caribbean lately have learned to be strategic when they place their towels…

Because many of the world famous beaches are being over-run by stinky seaweed.

And it just keeps coming.

Since 2011, seaweed - known as ‘sargassum’ - in Mexico’s Quintana Roo state and across the Caribbean has exploded.

Scientists suspect its invasion is related to climate change.

Researcher Dr. Rosa Elisa Rodriguez:

"We got the perfect storm - sargassum arrived, there were nutrients, the water was warm and this helps the seaweed to propagate. Now it is there and since sargassum reproduces really fast - it can duplicate its biomass in 20 days - it keeps on growing and growing and reproducing. That is why we are getting so much of it."

And – so much of its smell.

When the plant washes ashore, it turns black and emits a sewage-like stench so powerful it has been known to make travelers ill.

It also attracts insects and turns once-turquoise waters a sickly brown.

Now, clean-up operations are underway.

In Quintana Roo state – which includes tourist havens of Cancun and Tulum - Mexico’s Navy has, this year, removed more than 37,000 tons of sargassum from the water and beaches.

While the environmental impacts of the seaweed explosion - and collection - are still being studied... Some entrepreneurs across the region are experimenting… using seaweed in a host of products including animal feed, fuel, construction material – like seaweed “bricks” baked in the sun… And even signature cocktails at the Ritz-Carlton in Cancun.

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