The issue of sargassum in the Dominican Republic and the Caribbean region is “critical”, in the opinion of José Reyes López, Vice Minister of Coastal and Marine Resources of the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, consulted on the matter at the Climate Week of America Latin and the Caribbean 2022.
Reyes López attributes the increase in these brown macroalgae, which are becoming more frequent, to the effects of climate change due to human activities. The arrival of sargassum affects Dominican beach tourism, the main economic engine of the Caribbean country.
“Increasingly, as a result of climate change and the changes that the currents are generating, the sargassum is reaching points where it had never reached our island,” said the official, giving as an example that the algae have reached Pedernales, Miches and Puerto Plata.
The presence of sargassum in the Caribbean was given special attention in 2011, when it accumulated on the coasts, and since recent years it has been monitored even by satellite, as is done by the University of South Florida.
In its June report of this year, the academy indicated that the amount of sargassum continued to increase in the tropical Atlantic, the Caribbean Sea, the western central Atlantic, the eastern central Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico. In total, with the regions united, the amount went from 18.8 million tons last May to 24.2 million tons in June 2022, setting a new historical record.
It also warns that more sargassum may enter the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico in the following months as a result of the main ocean currents.
José Reyes López specified that since it is becoming a problem in the region, a working table will be launched with different institutions and the support of the European Union. The table would be chaired by the Dominican Republic, which seeks to position itself as a leader in the region on the subject.
He warned that rapid action must be taken in relation to sargassum, which is destroying marine biodiversity in the places it reaches, turtle nesting, fishing communities, obstructing coral reefs and the environmental ecosystem, harming fishing communities. and increasingly impacting the tourism sector.
The deputy minister indicated that the barriers against sargassum are placed individually in hotel zones, but assured that this is done with the guidelines of the Vice Minister of Coastal and Marine Resources of the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources.