DORAL, FL – Sargassum has disappeared by three-quarters in the Gulf of Mexico, according to scientists. Two-thirds in the western Caribbean and a quarter in the eastern Caribbean are also gone.
This is a buoyant, brown, and often times smelly, algae found abundantly in the ocean that when it gets to the shoreline, it makes the experience of going to the beach unpleasant. It stretches 5,000 miles from the west coast of Africa to the Gulf of Mexico.
Experts say sargassum season ended before expected due to unusually strong winds which stem from Tropical Storm Arlene. “One month ago, we predicted this,” said Chuanmin Hu, who is part of the USF research lab that tracks sargassum, to the Miami Herald.
“We said, ‘In June, it’s likely going to drop.’ But we never expected it would drop this much.” Scientists are inclined to think seaweed levels are not going to recover this year, now that the plant’s spring growing season is over. They also believe the remaining seaweed in the Atlantic Ocean won’t disturb beachgoers anymore.
The large floating blobs of sargassum can provide food, refuge, and breeding grounds for several animals, including fishes, sea turtles, marine birds, crabs, shrimp, and more, NOAA says. Some animals, like the sargassum fish (in the frogfish family), live their whole lives only in this habitat.
Even so, scientists say this phenomenon won’t affect the ecosystem of the ocean, since it is considered to a natural and completely normal process.
But this doesn’t mean we are sargassum free even when only a small percentage of the algae remained around the Florida Keys and the east coast of Florida by the end of June.
“That doesn’t mean Florida is sargassum-free,” Hu warned. “It simply means that the amount is not alarming. If you go to the beach in the next month or so, you may still see some sargassum here and there, but it’s a small amount. It doesn’t hurt anything.”
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