Have you noticed a massive amount of seaweed at the beach lately?
Miami's beaches are known for their gorgeous sunsets and clear waters, but recently they have been dealing with a smelly seaweed problem.
The seaweed, called Sargassum, is blooming in record numbers this year and is washing up on South Florida shores. Sargassum decomposes on beaches and emits hydrogen sulfide, which smells like rotten eggs.
So what is Sargassum, and why is it causing such a mess? Read on to find out!
What is Sargassum?
Sargassum is a brown seaweed that floats in the ocean and provides essential habitat for migratory organisms – crab, shrimp, baby sea turtles, and commercially important fish species such as tuna and marlin – that have adapted specifically to these floating algae. Sargassum also provides an important food source for these tiny organisms.
Why is Sargassum a concern?
Sargassum can provide essential benefits to the environment and economy. For example, Sargassum can act as a natural water filter, help control beach erosion, and provide valuable nutrients to the ocean.
But too much of a good thing can be trouble. While Sargassum provides many benefits to the marine ecosystem, it can also cause problems when it washes ashore in large amounts. Sargassum can smother coral reefs and seagrasses, leading to the death of these essential habitats. It can also entangle baby sea turtles making their way to the ocean after hatching on the beach.
The large Sargassum blooms we're seeing now can also result in smelly beaches, clogged waterways, and decreased tourism.
Why does Sargassum smell so bad?
Decomposing Sargassum on beaches releases hydrogen sulfide gas, which produces a rotten egg smell. The inhalation of hydrogen sulfide gas can cause respiratory issues in humans.
Does Sargassum impact human health?
Sargassum does not sting or cause rashes. However, Sargassum may contain tiny organisms that can irritate the skin. Also, when Sargassum washes ashore and decomposes on the beach, it releases hydrogen sulfide gas, which can cause respiratory issues in humans. It's best to avoid swimming areas with dense sargassum.
Does Sargassum impact the environment?
While it's a normal part of marine ecosystems in smaller amounts, Sargassum started blooming in the South Atlantic in 2011, smothering Florida and the Caribbean. These blooms are causing enormous problems for our beaches, water, and wildlife. It's yet another symptom of climate change and water pollution. And as we’ve seen this past summer, it’s worse in the summer months.
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Help Stranded Sea Turtles by Patrolling Sargassum
Sargassum is a natural part of the marine ecosystem, but climate change and pollution have caused a massive algae bloom. As Sargassum seaweed washes ashore, Miami's beaches are being covered in smelly pollution.
We’re having record Sargassum blooms during this year’s prime sea turtle hatching season. Baby sea turtles hatch on the beach and make their way to the water, but when beaches are covered in Sargassum, the baby sea turtles get entangled and can’t reach their destination.
You can help by patrolling Sargassum and reporting any entangled baby sea turtles you see to the Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission by calling 1-888-404-3922.
It is important that you DO NOT TOUCH the baby sea turtle!
Call FWC at 1-888-404-3922 and follow their instructions.