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Sargassum Here, There, Everywhere!

Sargassum Here, There, Everywhere!
September 13
08:17 2018
REPORTER: News Staff, -

The brown, putrid algae that everyone did not want to wash ashore near their homes is here in Belize City, and while the medium-to-long-term plan is still being chalked out on a national scale, the Belize City Council is doing what it can to clear away the gunk before it starts to accumulate like it has in southern Belize.

Yesterday, residents of the “Hangar” area of Belize, which stretches along the coast near the Municipal Airstrip, complained that the high tides had brought with it a load of the unsightly, smelly seaweed and dumped it on the already low-lying H.C. Fairweather Street that runs parallel to the coast.

By this morning, City Hall rounded up some of its human and vehicular resources and dispatched them to the area to clean up the muck.

City Hall’s Media Relations and Economic Development Manager, Hubert Pipersburgh, informed this newspaper that from early this morning the Council’s Sanitation and Works Departments collaborated to take care of the problem.

But the problem in that particular area is far more than just the Sargassum algae. The seawall which should protect the street is low, which means that anything higher than a regular tide will flow onto HC Fairweather Street. The frequent crashing of the waves has also compromised the height and surface of the street, making it susceptible to flooding whenever the seawater flows over the seawall.

“The proposal is to upgrade the street and seawall [over the] long-term…short term we will close the boat launch opening at the sea wall which exacerbates the Sargassum problem,” Pipersburgh said.

Out in San Pedro, the Town Council has been hiring a team of 20 residents to complement its Sanitation Unit in raking up the loads of Sargassum that has washed ashore its beaches and streets close to the sea line. Dump trucks then load up the rotting algae and haul it off to remote areas where it is dried and used as landfill in the San Pedrito area. This is done in close collaboration with Oceana and Five Seas to ensure the proper handling of the algae, which can be hazardous to human and animal life in its rotting stage.

The Sargassum situation on Ambergris Caye has gotten increasingly worse over the past three years, San Pedro Town Councilor responsible for the Environment Gary Greif told us today. Currently, the San Pedro Town Council is in consultation with other tourism destinations in Mexico that have been plagued by Sargassum. Those areas have hired companies to deflect the algae by creating barriers using nets (curtains) with buoys as markers out at sea to block the Sargassum before it reaches the shoreline. A few of the resorts in San Pedro have already adopted this practice to force the algae to drift away from their beachfront to other designated locations where it is collected and then dumped or carted off as landfill.

In San Pedro, the Sargassum onslaught has claimed small grunts and sardines close to the shoreline, but Greif said it did not affect the fish stocks that people consume.

Currently, the Belize Tourism Board has a task force that is working on adopting at the national level, the practices being used in neighboring Mexico to deflect the Sargassum. Part of that discussion is determining how expensive that project will be and how it will be covered.

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