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Guyana and Austria sign MOU

Guyana and Austria sign MOU

GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Sept 12, CMC – Guyana Wednesday signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Austria for transport, innovation and technology to enhance the local healthcare facilities.

Health Minister Volda Lawrence said the MOU is the beginning of a process which will result in enhanced healthcare facilities for citizens and that “concrete” projects could begin next year.

Health Minister Volda Lawrence and Dr. Gernot Grimm signing the MoU

“We are looking at the GPHC (Guyana Public Health Corporation) since it is our tertiary institution. You will be aware that particularly our A and E (Accident and Emergency) department is really under the threshold, in terms of a standard operating procedure that should pertain in a critical care unit.

“So, the first two aspects we will be getting involved with is a trauma centre and a critical care centre which will be able to take off the deficiencies which we do have presently. This will ensure improved delivery of care for our patients and also upgraded equipment for the staff works,” Lawrence said at the signing ceremony.

Chief of staff at the Austrian Ministry for Transport, Innovation and Technology, Dr. Gernot Grimm said the signing of the MOU is in keeping with the good relations enjoyed by the two countries over a number of years.

He said the success of the MOU would be seen in the tangible achievements sooner rather than later.

“We have brought along a couple of technical experts from Austria to have this work done as soon as possible to our bilateral negotiations, so we really want to show and speed up the whole process to be in a position to start as soon as possible,” he said.

The signing of the MOU was witnessed by Foreign Affairs Minister Carl Greenidge, Minister within the Ministry of Public Health Karen Cummings along with GPHC chief executive officer, Patrick West.

Meanwhile, the Austrian-based AMED Engineering Company has pledged to support Guyana in its efforts to modernise the public health and other sectors.

The company is holding discussions with the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Public Health in developing the “Lighthouse” project and Grimm said ‘the health sector is not the only technology we are ready to co-operate with you but it’s the first one.

“I call it the lighthouse project to show the public in Guyana and in Austria that a co-operation can exceed political excellent relations by far through well-functioning economic ties and relations.”

VAMED is recognised internationally as one of the leading companies in the healthcare sector. VAMED provides a complete package of services for every type of healthcare facility. The range of services provided covers the entire healthcare value chain, from project development, planning and construction to total operational, biomedical engineering and facility management.

Greenidge said Guyana has long benefitted from initiatives introduced by the Austrian government. He added however that the administration is prepared to take advantage of the advanced ideas and projects that VAMED has to offe

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Dr Jules and Dir Henri Yacou shake hands at OECS HQts

OECS and CGSS of Guadeloupe Sign Cooperation Agreement on Healthcare

General Director of the CGSS, Mr. Henri Yacou, signs Protocole d’Accord (MOU) in General Director of the CGSS, Mr. Henri Yacou, signs Protocole d’Accord (MOU) in Guadeloupe. (OECS Photo)

The OECS Commission has in an OECS Media Statement informed the following:

On Thursday, August 23, 2018 — Efforts to facilitate the ease of access to medical care in the French Departments of the Eastern Caribbean for nationals of OECS Member States were reinforced by a recent cooperation agreement signed by the OECS Commission and the General Social Security Fund of Guadeloupe (Caisse Generale Sécurité Sociale – CGSS).

The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed by Dr. Didacus Jules, Director General of the OECS Commission and Mr. Henri Yacou, General Director of CGSS.

Inter alia, the Agreement seeks to:

  1. Address the administrative, logistical and financial barriers that OECS Member States face when accessing health services in the French Departments in the Eastern Caribbean; and
  2. Facilitate the exchange of information and capacity building in an effort to support the development of regional approaches to health services and the portability of health benefits backed by adequate health insurance.

The MOU follows a visit of the CGSS General Director, Mr. Henri Yacou, and his team to the OECS Commission’s offices in Saint Lucia in June, 2018.

Dr Jules and Dir Henri Yacou shake hands at OECS HQts

Dr. Didacus Jules said, “We are very aware of the exorbitant costs associated with extra-regional travel for medical care. The Commission has been actively seeking to create linkages with our French neighbours to expand access to specialised healthcare within the region and this agreement with the CGSS in Guadeloupe is a materialisation of these efforts. We look forward to deepening areas of cooperation in the years ahead.”

Mr. Henri Yacou informed, “It’s a real pleasure to have signed this agreement between CGSS and OECS.”

“I sincerely wish that this project will facilitate the free movement of citizens of the OECS to access health care in the best conditions possible.”

 

 

The CGSS team is presently working on a plan for:

  • A pilot project in the OECS with a French health insurance company;   
  • Unique identification numbers for citizens of Member States; and
  • A financially and legally secure partnership with hospital establishments of Guadeloupe, Martinique and St Martin.

 The Agreement came into effect in July 2018 and will last, in the first instance, for a period of three years.

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Ross University opens new research and pathology building in St. Kitts Nevis

Ross University opens new research and pathology building in St. Kitts Nevis

BASSETERRE, St. Kitts, Jul. 12, CMC – The Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine (RUSVM) has opened a multi-million dollar research and pathology building that will allow for an improved understanding of zoonotic and vector borne diseases in the region.

At the opening earlier this week, Deputy Prime Minister and Education Minister Shawn Richards said the government is looking forward to this new phase.

“My Government is also happy that this new phase will result in enhanced understanding and control of zoonotic diseases that are transferred between animals and people, such as leptospirosis, and vector-borne diseases such as chikungunya, dengue fever and Zika. As you know, those three vector-borne diseases are spread by mosquito bites,” Richards said.

“My Government therefore envisages that the RUSVM Research and Pathology Building will serve to strengthen our ongoing partnership by becoming a national reference centre or important focal point for studying and controlling vector-borne viral and bacterial diseases.”

The deputy prime minister also stressed that the new research and pathology building will further strengthen the federation’s food and agriculture sector.

“In particular, the research and pathology building will revitalize animal agricultural research by strengthening best practices in monitoring and protecting our herd health, our public health system, and our food supply – from the farm to the dinner table,” adding that “RUSVM performs autopsies on livestock animals that die at the Basseterre abattoir, and the university provides this service free of charge. This partnership allows students to obtain the educational exposure in a manner that is socially acceptable, while at the same time allowing the Agriculture Department to make informed, science-based decisions relating to animal health and food safety. Our strong history of collaborating with Ross University in the control, prevention, surveillance and treatment of disease is further cemented with this new research phase, not only in the area of food security.”

The US$10.5 million building features 13,000 square feet of research space and comprises a pathology viewing area to enhance student learning and allows for multidisciplinary research to benefit human and animal health in the Caribbean

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WHO official urges Barbados to take a multi-sectoral approach to climate change

WHO official urges Barbados to take a multi-sectoral approach to climate change

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, July 13, CMC – Assistant Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Dr. Joy St John, has urged Barbados to take a multi-sectoral approach to climate change, health and other environmental issues. Advice that has been circulated throughout CARICOM and the OECS.

She made these recommendations during a joint-ministerial courtesy call on Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Dr Jerome Walcott.

Assistant Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO),
Dr. Joy St John (second left) meeting with officials in Barbados

Dr. St. John, a former Chief Medical Officer in Barbados, explained that such an approach was critical in assisting the country to assume a leadership role in the areas of climate change, health and environment.

She noted that this approach was beneficial, especially when seeking to access funding, suggesting that in the same way there was a clear national agenda for HIV and a multi-sectorial approach to non communicable diseases, there needed to be similar collaboration for climate change, water sustainability, hygiene in health facilities and air pollution, among others.

The PAHO official also pointed out that climate change was a part of the Blue Economy and Barbados needed to ensure there was suitable representation when new policies were created at the international level.

Dr. Walcott thanked Dr. St. John for her advice, and stated that he was conscious of the value of an integrated approach, especially with health, the Blue Economy and the environment. He said he would take her suggestions on board.

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Soldiers and rescue workers walk past water pumped out of the cave complex.

Thai cave rescue: army drains site in bid to free boys before monsoon

The Guardian (UK)

Hundreds of pumps clearing water along 4km path in hope of avoiding need for scuba gear

Visual guide: how boys could be rescued

1:16
Thai rescuers race to drain water from cave before rain – video

Thai rescuers say 12 boys trapped deep inside a cave complex may be able to walk out, provided the route can be drained before the monsoon showers predicted for the weekend.

A military operation in the Tham Luang Nang Non cave complex is employing hundreds of industrial pumps to drain the water along the 2.5-mile (4km) path from the entrance to the area where the children and their football coach have been sheltering for 12 days.

Poonsak Woongsatngiem, a rescue official with Thailand’s interior ministry, told the Guardian the water had been reduced by 40% in the past few days, clearing a 1.5km stretch of dark, jagged and muddy cave channels that the boys would need to traverse.

The focus of Thursday’s operations is a third major basin along the route, Woongsatngiem said. The boys, who are not strong swimmers, are being trained in how to dive using scuba equipment. But forcing them to exit through the water is considered very risky.

Soldiers and rescue workers walk past water pumped out of the cave complex.
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Soldiers and rescue workers walk past water pumped out of the cave complex. Photograph: Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters

“We [are] target[ing] the water in the third chamber to reduce to the point that no diving equipment is needed, like to the waistline, so one can wear just life jackets and walk out,” Woongsatngiem said on Thursday.

Clearing the third basin would leave another 2.5km of path to the boys, whose ages range from 11 to 16. A Chinese diver at the site, Wang Ying Jie, said about half that remaining path would be walkable in the right conditions; the maximum water depth they would need to cross is about six metres.

It is unclear how long the remaining area would take to drain, but monsoon rains are predicted for Saturday and would quickly refill the cave complex, potentially cutting the boys off for months.

Rain was the biggest worry, said Narongsak Osatanakorn, the governor of Chiang Rai province, who is coordinating the rescue efforts. “We were racing against time before we found them,” he said. “Now we’re racing against water. It keeps seeping through the cave.”

A fibre-optic cable was being laid inside the cave and would reach the boys soon, he added, so the children would be able to speak to and possibly see their parents on video.

Wang said most of the boys remained in good health but three had intestinal issues and were in some pain. Divers were positioned at the third basin waiting to ferry medicine to the children.

With wet weather looming, authorities are also calculating how long they are willing to allow rescuers to remain in the cave before they order an evacuation.

Updates on the condition of the boys and the water levels were being slowed by the length of the journey to reach the children. “It’s about 11 hours – six on the way from the entrance to where the kids are and five on the way back,” he said.

1:00
Chilean miner has message of hope for trapped Thai boys – video

He said the boys and their 25-year-old coach had started practising diving but did not confirm whether they would try to bring any out on Thursday. Those considered strong enough to go could do so first, he said. “They don’t need to be brought out as a team,” Osatanakorn said. “Whosoever is ready can come out first.”

Officials were also scouring the jungle above the complex to find new openings that could be drilled to extract the boys more easily. The children were breathing, he said, so there was very likely a shaft somewhere to the top.

“We have around 20 to 30 teams surveying on top to find the closest and most precise spot,” he said.

One Thai navy Seal member who spent time with the boys said they “were always asking about the World Cup. I told them that all the big teams had gone home.”

Additional reporting by Veena Thoopkrajae in Mae Sai and the Associated Press

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PAHO begins debate on strategies, plans for improving the health of the Caribbean

PAHO begins debate on strategies, plans for improving the health of the Caribbean

WASHINGTON, Jun 20, CMC – The Executive Committee of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) has begun its 162nd session at the World Health Organization’s (WHO) regional office for the Americas in order to discuss strategies and plans of action to improve the health of the Americas, including the Caribbean.

Chaired by Panama, PAHO said the committee will meet until June 30 to discuss strategies and plans, developed in consultation with its Member States, which guide regional cooperation.

“As we look towards the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda as well as our own Sustainable Health Agenda for the Americas, 2018-2030, there are some imperative priorities to be addressed in the next five years,” said PAHO’s Dominican-born director Carissa F. Etienne.

PAHO said issues to be discussed during the Committee include: action plans to ensure the health of women, children and adolescents; the prevention and treatment of cervical cancer; and the human resources required for universal health access and coverage.

“We must collectively recommit ourselves to developing resilient health systems and ensure the delivery of quality, affordable and people-centered health care services,” said Etienne at the opening of the meeting.

PAHO said the Committee will also address issues around entomology and vector control, and the strengthening of tobacco control measures in the Americas.

“In spite of our current successes in the health area, we cannot fail to recognize that there are many persons who still cannot afford to pay for the medicines and treatments that they need,” Etienne said. “Our principal charge must be to help to significantly diminish these unmet needs.”

Representatives from the nine Member States that compose the Executive Committee – Antigua and Barbuda; Argentina, Brazil, Belize, Canada, Chile: Colombia; Panama and Peru – will also receive progress reports on issues including on road safety; the reduction in maternal mortality and severe maternal morbidity; integrated child health; climate change; eHealth; bioethics; health and international relations.

The deliberations of the Committee will determine the final agenda to be addressed during the 56th Directing Council, that will take place September 24-28 this year, PAHO said.

The Executive Committee functions as a working group of the Pan American Sanitary Conference and the Directing Council of PAHO. It comprises nine Member States elected by the Pan American Sanitary Conference or the Directing Council of PAHO to serve for three-year periods.

The Executive Committee meets twice a year or more frequently if there is a special request of the director of PAHO or at least three Member States.

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New policy aims to get teenage mothers back in school

New policy aims to get teenage mothers back in school

GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Jun. 19, CMC – The Ministry of Education has implemented a  new policy  to ensure that  teenage mothers have the opportunity to go back to school while receiving support at home and from their community.

The policy manual was handed over on Monday  by officials from the Ministry and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

The policy which is a collaboration between the Ministry of Education and UNICEF, also had the input of other stakeholders, including the Ministry of Public Security and faith-based organisations.

Sandra Granger

Addressing the handing over ceremony at the National Center for Educational Resource Development (NCERD) , First Lady, Sandra Granger, called on the policy-makers and educators to uphold and protect the rights of children and adolescent mothers who have suffered sexual abuse.

“We have to speak of these things and see it as violence against our children. We also have to… ensure that their rights are recognised and upheld; that our legal and our social protection agencies protect these children with the full majesty of the law… the children come first and it is their future that we have to ensure… That is enshrined in our Constitution.”

According to Minister of Education, Nicolette Henry, teenage pregnancy is a complex issue which results from a number of factors. These can be poverty, gender inequality, violence, lack of education and difficult relationships with parents and family members. She said this must not prevent them from acquiring education.

“As the government, our motto is that every child matters. With this policy there will be no need to repeat the past because the future for adolescent mothers in Guyana will become bright because legally the barriers that prevail will be a thing of the past and indeed illegal. Leaving the path open to an education for all,” Minister Henry told officials present.

UNICEF representative to Guyana and Suriname, Sylvie Fouet said Guyana ranks the second highest in teenage pregnancy in Latin America and the Caribbean. She said the creation of the policy is a key milestone and the next step is implementation. She signalled that opening the doors is not sufficient, and communities and stakeholders need to understand and be supportive and knowledgeable of reproductive health in Guyana.

“They need to know that they are protected and they are cared for so all the supportive mechanisms like education, health and justice has to support that and we hope so and we wish the best for Guyanese particularly the youngest,” Fouet said.

The policy has been in the works for approximately one year and sets out clear guidelines to ensure that mothers are not denied the opportunity to re-enter the formal school system, to continue their education.

It aims at not only managing the reintegration of the adolescent mothers but it is to also advance the prevention of adolescent pregnancy.

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CARICOM and Cuba to strengthen relations in key areas of cooperation

CARICOM and Cuba to strengthen relations in key areas of cooperation

GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Jun 14, CMC – The Cribbean Community (CARICOM)  and the government of Cuba have both pledged to continue to strenthen relations in matters related to trade and the arts.

This was the outcome of talks between CARICOM’s  Assistant Secretary General, Human and Social Development  Dr. Douglas Slater, and  Cuba’s Vice Minister  Rogelio Sierra Diaz, when they met at the CARICOM Secretariat on Wednesday.

The issues related to a Disabilities Project, the extension of Art programmes at the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts in Jamaica, and trade.

In the discussions on the Disabilities Project, Slater, who spoke on behalf of CARICOM Secretary General Irwin LaRocque,  noted that a tri-lateral  Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), among the Government of Guyana, the Government of Cuba and CARICOM had already been signed.

He explained that there was a decision to implement the Project in phases and outlined that a Centre has been constructed by the Government of Guyana and a  team from Cuba is already in  Guyana working on the Project.

He said when the initial phase was completed in Guyana and there was a clear way forward, the Project would be extended to the other CARICOM Member States.

In response, Diaz said firm steps had been taken and there was a lot to be thankful for. He said it was now important to acquire the equipment needed.

In relation to the phase of the Project that would extend it to the other CARICOM Member States, he said that the CARICOM Secretary-General and staff would play a key role in achieving the goals of that phase.

Both parties agreed that there were still some details that needed to be refined between CARICOM and Guyana.

The Cuban Vice-Minister also gave the assurance that Cuba would provide support, knowledge and training, but emphasized that the project belonged to CARICOM.

Turning to the matter of the extension of programmes in the School of Art at the Edna Manley School in Jamaica, the Cuban Ambassador said the Government of Jamaica had been contacted and the areas in which Cuba could provide assistance were identified. He explained that it was being proposed that there might be some additional infrastructural requirements for the project to move forward and various options to address this challenge were being explored.

Slater expressed an interest in further engagement on the matter and also gave an assurance that the CARICOM Secretariat would engage with the Edna Manley School to explore the available options.

Assistant Secretary-General, Trade and Economic Integration, Joseph Cox who was also present, spoke about a trade and economic partnership agreement that had been regionally applied in 12 Member States and highlighted that Haiti had now expressed an interest in joining the agreement.

We have commenced our engagements with Haiti in this regard and we will have further engagements with Cuba regarding their inclusion and that should happen in the very near future”, Cox said.

In relation to a Joint Commission in which the second protocol was signed in November 2017, he advised that Member States needed to accelerate their efforts to satisfy the legal requirements to be party to the Commission.

Under the agreement, more than 300 Caribbean products would have fees removed for export to Cuba.

The Cuban Vice-Minister said he understood that there were legal protocols that would have to be addressed, but implored CARICOM not to allow them to create further delays.

The goal of the protocol is to improve trade relations between CARICOM and Cuba.

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Campaign to combat childhood obesity launched

Campaign to combat childhood obesity launched

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Jun 15, CMC – Barbados has launched a campaign aimed at addressing childhood obesity and the government has said it is examining the feasibility of restricting foods high in salt, fat and sugar from the school environment and from being marketed to children.

Health and Wellness Minister, retired Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Bostic, speaking at the launch of the Childhood Obesity Prevention Campaign, cited a report by researchers at the University of the West Indies (UWI) showing that in 1987, only 8.5 per cent of Barbadian school children were obese.

However, by 2010, the percentage rose to 32.5 per cent and it is now projected that the figure could increase to 50 per cent by 2030.

“Childhood obesity is harming Barbados through its impacts on the health and social fabric of the country. Not only is the burden of obesity in children large but it is projected to continue growing unless we take decisive action,” Bostic said.

He said that the impacts of childhood obesity on health encompassed issues such as increased risk of adult obesity and increased risk of non-communicable diseases, depression and anxiety.

The campaign, an initiative of the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Barbados, and dubbed “Stop! Yuh TOO Sweet,” will initially focus solely on the support of policy change to ban the sale of sugary sweets in schools.

Bostic gave the assurance that the government was committed to addressing the issue in several ways including working in partnership with a variety of agencies.

Other initiatives include promoting breastfeeding as an integral part of early child nutrition; supporting the monitoring of growth and development in early childhood; and encouraging regular physical activity in school-aged children.

He said that the Ministry would be engaging the food industry on reducing the production, manufacture, distribution and marketing of energy-dense and high-salt foods.

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Hakai magazine - 21317456_917456491739700_7023303973981631530_n

The Eastern Caribbean Is Swamped by a Surge of Seaweed

Massive rafts of floating sargassum are killing wildlife and preventing fishers from launching their boats.

by Ryan Schuessler

June 11, 2018

Barbados’s Long Beach, typically a picturesque vision of white sand and blue water, is buried beneath a vast expanse of thick, rotting seaweed. It’s a stinking nuisance that has turned deadly.

“We have found three dolphins dead,” says Carla Daniel, the director of public awareness and education with the Barbados Sea Turtle Project. Daniel and her colleagues believe the dolphins got caught on June 4 in sargassum seaweed that has been washing up on Barbados and across the eastern Caribbean in mounds up to two meters thick. A necropsy of one dolphin revealed it died of stress.

Seven endangered green sea turtles have also died so far. “For the majority of animals, the sargassum can be a problem because it traps them,” Daniel says.

Under normal conditions, floating sargassum is a thriving ecosystem. It provides a vital habitat and food source in the open ocean for fish, turtles, and crustaceans. There are even a handful of species found only in floating sargassum mats, including the aptly-named sargassum fish. But when it grows too thick, the seaweed clumps in dense, tangled mats so expansive and impenetrable that sea turtles and other surface-breathing animals can’t break through.

The current losses are reminiscent of 2015, when the worst sargassum influx to date killed more than 40 green and hawksbill sea turtles, their bodies found in the thick rafts of seaweed. “For an endangered species, that’s unacceptable,” says Hazel Oxenford, a biologist at the University of the West Indies in Barbados.

But the current surge of seaweed is expected to be much worse than the one in 2015. “You can see on the satellite that there’s a lot more coming,” says Iris Monnereau, who works with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in Barbados. Satellite observations show hundreds of thousands of square kilometers of sargassum floating in the central Atlantic. The challenge is in predicting where it will go next and where it might reach land, a situation that causes a whole other set of challenges.

In Barbados, the dolphin death toll has already risen to at least six—and it is expected to keep rising. Photo by the Barbados Sea Turtle Project

In Barbados, the dolphin death toll has already risen to at least six—and it is expected to keep rising. Photo by the Barbados Sea Turtle Project

Thick mats of sargassum seaweed can prevent animals from reaching the surface to breathe. Photo by the Barbados Sea Turtle Project

Barbados, the easternmost nation in the Lesser Antilles, an island chain in the Caribbean Sea, was just one island in the region on which the seaweed made landfall. In Dominica, a sargassum mat came ashore in the town of Marigot a few days before Barbados was inundated.

“It’s the worst we’ve seen it. [The seaweed] took up the entire bay,” says Andrew Magloire, who has worked in Dominica’s fisheries sector for more than 20 years. “The fishermen could not go to sea for two or three days. They couldn’t get the boats out because it was so thick.”

Sea weed – invates Marguerita Bay, Montserrat

In Montserrat, conservationist Veta Wade says “huge walls of sargassum” have come ashore on the island’s eastern coast.

The seaweed’s arrival in Barbados started as a trickle around January, Monnereau says. But the amount arriving has ramped up dramatically since early June. “It’s really come back in full force,” Monnereau says. “It’s just been disastrous.”

Historically, small quantities of the floating macroalgae naturally drifted into the Caribbean from the Sargasso Sea to the north. Since at least 2011, however, sargassum from a new source—the north equatorial recirculation region (NERR)—has begun inundating the region with thick mats of seaweed.

The massive rafts of sargassum produced in the north equatorial recirculation region have been washing ashore in recent years not only in the Caribbean, but also in Mexico, Trinidad and Tobago, and West African nations including Sierra Leone and Côte d’Ivoire. Illustration by Mark Garrison

The massive rafts of sargassum produced in the north equatorial recirculation region have been washing ashore in recent years not only in the Caribbean, but also in Mexico, Trinidad and Tobago, and West African nations including Sierra Leone and Côte d’Ivoire. Illustration by Mark Garrison

Conditions in the NERR, an area near the equator where large currents circulate, sporadically spurs the growth of sargassum—although the exact trigger for the blooms remains unclear. Evidence points to some combination of excessive nutrients from agricultural fertilizers and pollution; increasing nutrient flows from the Congo and Amazon Rivers and in dust blown from the Sahara Desert; and increasing sea surface temperatures caused by climate change. Under normal climatic conditions, sargassum can double its mass in just 11 days, Oxenford says. A warmer sea will dramatically boost its growth potential, she says.

These mass accumulations of seaweed devastate marine and costal ecosystems: they prevent vital sunlight from reaching coral reefs and seagrass beds, and their decomposition saps the water of oxygen and releases toxic hydrogen sulfide. The result is a rapid degradation of seagrass beds, mangroves, coral reefs, and other shallow coastal ecosystems. A 2017 study showed how an influx of sargassum caused the mass die-off of seagrass beds in Mexico, causing damage that may take years or decades to repair.

The phenomenon’s impact on local fisheries is also becoming clear. And the news isn’t all negative.

“As bad as [sargassum] is, [it] has a lot of life in it,” says Barbadian fisherman Allan Bradshaw.

Since the sargassum rafts began appearing in the eastern Caribbean in 2011, fishers have been landing more mahi-mahi than ever before, Bradshaw says. Juvenile mahi-mahi congregate near sargassum rafts. “Never before would you have seen those in such vast quantities,” Bradshaw says.

But Barbados’s crucial flying fish fishery has taken a hit. While the mechanism remains unclear, the arrival of such massive amounts of sargassum have coincided with a dramatic decrease in flying fish landings. Compared to the first six months of 2014, when Barbadian fishers landed 981 tonnes of flying fish, the catch plummeted to just 278 tonnes a year later, during 2015’s major influx of seaweed—a 72 percent decrease in one of the island’s most important fisheries.

Although impacts of the sargassum influx on fisheries has been mixed, unprecedented challenges emerge when the massive rafts—fueled by increasing temperatures and nutrient loads—come near shore.

Carla Daniel, the director of public awareness and education with the Barbados Sea Turtle Project, has been working to find and rescue animals that have been washed ashore with the seaweed. Photo by the Barbados Sea Turtle Project

Carla Daniel, the director of public awareness and education with the Barbados Sea Turtle Project, has been working to find and rescue animals that have been washed ashore with the seaweed. Photo by the Barbados Sea Turtle Project

This includes risks to human health. While the hydrogen sulphide gas released when the seaweed decays occurs naturally in the human body, it is dangerous in large amounts, causing headaches, dizziness, nausea, and even asthma. It can also cause “rapid and extensive damage to concrete and metals,” writes the US Environmental Protection Agency.

The smell and blight also has the potential to damage the tourism industry, an economic pillar to Barbados and other islands in the region.

Back in Barbados, Daniel and her team are picking through the thick sargassum mats that cover the beach, looking for turtles and wildlife that can still be saved. Going live on the Barbados Sea Turtle Project’s Facebook page last Thursday, Daniel released a turtle named Olive that had survived being washed ashore. The turtle, which is missing three of its four flippers, was taken out to sea and returned to, of all places, a small patch of sargassum.

But it’s a carefully considered placement. The seaweed, says Daniel in the video, will give the turtle a source of food and a bit of shelter, as sargassum naturally does in the open ocean. As long as the sargassum doesn’t get too thick and the current steers clear of the shore, Olive should be okay.

Daniel believes the threat of vast sargassum mats killing wildlife and washing ashore is “going to be part of our new reality.” But her team, which relies on locals to report sightings of stranded wildlife like Olive, has seen a huge outpouring of support in recent days. “People are very, very willing to help.”

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