Florida to Experience Worst Sargassum Bloom in History

Lakes Beach is covered in sargassum in St. Andrew along the east coast of Barbados, Wednesday, July 27, 2022. InternationalIndiaAfricaMary ManleySargassum, a type of algae, can carry with it an awful smell when it begins to rot, which is not only unattractive to beachgoers but can also cause breathing issues for people with asthma. A 5,000-mile-wide seaweed bloom called the Great Atlantic Sargassum Belt has started washing up on Florida’s beaches and – according to researchers – peak accumulation of the belt will hit Florida’s shores in just a couple of months. A report made by researchers at the University of Southern Florida detailed that an estimated 3 million tons of sargassum in the Central Atlantic was seen moving westward, and will continue to pile up on Southeastern Florida beaches. It’s speculated the bloom will “likely” reach its peak in June.Researchers have noticed the sargassum was traveling through the Caribbean Sea, as the southern coasts of Hispaniola, Jamaica, and Puerto Rico have already begun to notice “buildups” in the last week.The mass of sargassum that researchers have been following is also greater than any other on record.“Looking ahead, the total Sargassum quantity is expected to increase over the next few months, with impacts of beaching events in the [Caribbean Sea] and [Gulf of Mexico] worsening accordingly,” researchers said.Sargassum, which refers to over 300 species of brown algae, is beneficial to marine life offering nutrients, food and protection. But when it is beached and begging to rot, its smell is like that of rotting eggs. It can also create dead zones in the ocean’s water when it builds up too much, and can release toxic gas which causes respiratory problems.“Sargassum is also known to often contain heavy metals that can be toxic to humans and animals,” the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said.Cleaning up the sargassum can be an expensive process and could potentially endanger sea turtle eggs and other endangered wildlife populations by the equipment used to move the toxic algae. Leaving the rotting sargassum in place, however, could allow arsenic, which is found in sargassum, to leach into the land’s groundwater.

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