Assistant Information Officer
Department of Information & Public Relations
The influx of the sargassum seaweed is once again causing concern for members of the Virgin Islands community, namely those working in the tourism industry, fisherfolks and the frequent beach visitors.
Acting Deputy Secretary in the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources and Climate Change, Mr. Mervin Hastings said the Government of the Virgin Islands is constantly on the move to mitigate the issue of sargassum, through clean up initiatives, trainings and workshops with stakeholders, as well as public awareness initiatives.
He said the topic of sargassum is one which is continuously being discussed not only locally or regionally but also in other parts of the world and is costing Governments millions of dollars to address.
Mr. Hastings said, “The purpose of educating the community is, that together we, in the Virgin Islands, along with our regional and international counterparts can find a solution to this costly and concerning issue.” He is aslo urging the community to sensitise themselves with the topic of Sargassum in order to understand and adequately navigate the issue.
Meanwhile, Marine Biologist and Environmeal Officer II, Ms. Argel Horton, said the source of sargassum that the Territory is impacted by derives from the Great Atlantic Sargassum Belt.
Ms. Horton said the belt spans across 500 miles and lies between Africa and South America. She said sargassum multiplies fast with warm waters and unfortunately with the ongoing heat that is impacting the region, the blooms will continue to impact the Territory.
The Environmental Officer said that according to satellite tracking, the influx will continue but the volume will be moderate until October 2023. She added that although sargassum is a challenging issue for the local government, she was optimistic that creative ways could be found to tackle this problem.
Ms. Horton said, “Many of our Caribbean counterparts have successfully produced products utilising sargassum such as fertilisers, beauty products and biofuel, just to name a few. I am confident in our people’s abilitity to brainstorm and come up with solutions and rise above this issue where we can turn sargassum into a valuable commodity.”
Earlier this year, representatives from multiple organisations including the BVI Tourist Board, National Parks Trust of the Virgin Islands, Unite BVI and BVI Ports Authority attended a two-day training of trainer’s workshop in sargassum management.
The training was a collaborative effort between the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources and Climate Change; the Caribbean Natural Resources Institute (CANARI) and the University of the West Indies Centre for Resources Management and Environmental Studies (UWI-CERMES).
The focus was also to increase understanding of the science of sargassum, its origins and ecological value, the principles of adaptive management, selection of tools and approaches for monitoring, and the clean-up and the rehabilitation of affected areas.
The Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources and Climate Change envision sound stewardship of our natural resources by implementing a robust legal framework that fosters environmentally friendly best management practices.