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Governments moving to ban plastics and Styrofoam

Governments moving to ban plastics and Styrofoam

NASSAU, Bahamas, Jul. 27, CMC – The Government has embarked upon a programme to ban the use of plastics and Styrofoam which are proving detrimental to the country’s eco and marine system.

In an effort to make the public aware of the planned policy, the first in a series of town hall meetings on Single-use Plastics & Styrofoam Ban was held earlier this week.

(file photo)

Addressing the gathering, the Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis underscored the importance of banning the use of plastics and Styrofoam.

The aim is to also simultaneously address marine pollution and waste management and to ban single-use plastics, such as shopping bags, food utensils, straws and Styrofoam food containers by 2020.

“Reducing harmful waste streams such as plastics and Styrofoam is one of the first steps we are taking in to implementing a more effective solid waste management strategy that prioritizes waste prevention and minimization, while utilizing waste disposal as a last resort,” he said.

The Prime Minister referenced the New Daily website about a video that went viral on the “world’s latest garbage emergency” showing 30 tons of plastic debris washing up on a beach in the Dominican Republic. 

The New Daily also reported “A huge clean-up operation began on Wednesday with more than 500 local public workers, navy and army support mobilized to collect and remove the massive floating stockpile of plastic bottles, takeaway food containers and Styrofoam.”

According to the Prime Minister, these “shocking” events dramatize why there is a global and his Government’s push towards reducing plastic pollution in the oceans.

More than 60 countries have already committed to introducing levies and bans to reduce single-use plastic waste, he said, adding that plastic pollution is extremely difficult to remove from the environment.

“These plastics break down into much smaller micro-pieces which are often mistaken for food by birds, turtles, and fish. Tiny particles of plastics have been found to build up in fish brains, altering their behaviour,” Minnis said.

He also noted that like other Small Island Developing States, The Bahamas is highly vulnerable to the impact of climate change.

“Coupled with this, we have the prevailing challenge of finding waste management solutions that suit our small size and growing economy.Due to our geographic location, we are besieged by marine debris from the United States of America, and from the many international marine vessels which pass through our waters. This pollution will have a terrible impact on our tourism and fishing industries.”

The Prime Minister said that his Government remains committed to ensuring that significant action is taken to mitigate natural as well as human-made pollution, including pollution resulting from the poor-functioning and poorly managed dump sites throughout our archipelago.

“As the Ministry of the Environment continues to host town hall and consultation meetings with businesses, I want to encourage all Bahamians to do their part in reducing their plastics and Styrofoam use,” he added.

Dominica bans Styrofoam and plastic items

ROSEAU, Dominica, Jul 27, CMC- The Dominica government says it will ban the use of Styrofoam and certain plastic items from January 1, next year.

Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit told Parliament that that the decision is in keeping with his administration’s vision to have the island become the first climate resilient country in the world.

“Madam Speaker, consistent with the Government’s vision to create the world’s first climate resilient nation, our designation as “The Nature Isle” and our commitment to protect Mother Earth, effective 1st January 2019, a number of items considered to be inimical to the environment will be banned.

“These will include the following: plastic straws, plastic plates, plastic forks, plastic knives, Styrofoam cups, Styrofoam containers,” Skerrit said, adding that that the necessary legislation to enforce the ban will soon be prepared.

“We must in every way deserve and reflect that designation,” he said of the island being known as the “Nature Isle”.

He said the issue of solid waste management affects the perception of Dominica as the Nature Island and his government continues to grapple with the problem.

“In a previous budget address, I announced a decision to restrict the importation of non-biodegradable containers and plastic implements used in food service. This matter has not proceeded as quickly as we would have liked, as we wanted to ensure that we implemented that policy without compromising our obligations under the revised Treaty of Chaguaramas. (that governs the Caribbean Community (CARICOM))

“It is acceptable for a country to adopt measures which will help in the preservation of the environment,” he added.

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Antigua shows strongest air arrivals in 15 years

Antigua shows strongest air arrivals in 15 years

by STAFF WRITER

ST. JOHN’S, Antigua, Jul. 18,  CMC – Antigua and Barbuda tourism officials say that for the first time in over 15 years, the country has seen the strongest overall visitor arrivals by air from January to June. 

The Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority (ABTA) said it recorded 148,139 arrivals for that period with significant increases in the key source markets – the United States, Canada, United Kingdom and the Caribbean. 

ABTA said this represents an overall seven per cent increase over 2017. 

It said the closest the destination previously came to these figures was in 2008.

The authority said June demonstrated significant increases while Canada has the greatest year-over-year increase with over 170 per cent, followed by the US , the  Caribbean   and the United Kingdom .

In addition, ABTA said the destination is seeing an average 11.57 per cent increase in sea arrivals  and an average 8.6 per cent growth in occupancy rates.

This growth is set to continue with significant increased airlift from North America in the Fall 2018, the opening of the destination’s newest 5-star resort and spa, Hodges Bay, in October 2018, as well as a full cruise schedule.

“We are excited by this positive momentum in growth of arrivals, both by cruise and air,” said Minister of Tourism, Economic Development and Investment, Charles “Max” Fernandez. 

“It is incredibly encouraging for the tourism industry, and I would like to congratulate the Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority, the private sector, stakeholders and all our tourism partners in helping us to reach these positive results for the first six months of the year,” he added. 

“We will not rest on our laurels, and are striving for better,” Fernandez continued. “We will continue to invest in infrastructure and service and raise awareness of Antigua and Barbuda to ensure we see consistent growth in arrivals.” 

ABTA chief executive officer, Colin C. James, said the first half of 2018 has shown “incredible improvement, especially in our key source markets.

“We look forward to relentlessly working towards attracting new and returning visitors, improving our on-island tourism products, as well as increasing access through our award-winning airport and port,” he said. 

“We are doubling our airlift out of Miami, introducing new direct service out of New York and Canada, and welcoming new cruise ships to an already busy schedule,” he added.

 

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Cruise passenger arrivals exceed one million

Cruise passenger arrivals exceed one million

BASSETERRE, St. Kitts, Jul 17, CMC – St Kitts and Nevis  has reached a milestone as the federation welcomed   its millionth cruise ship passenger on Monday.

St. Kitts Tourism Authority and Ministry of Tourism said this now gives the island marquee port status for the first time in its history.

“I am deeply gratified to welcome over one million cruise passengers to our shores as of today,” said Tourism Minister Lindsay F.P. Grant.

“It is particularly significant that this historic occasion is taking place now, as we have over two months left in the 2017-2018 cruise season to increase arrivals even further.  Reaching this milestone at this point in time is truly a testament to the strength of our relationships with the cruise lines and to the continuing appeal of our tourism product.”

CEO of the St. Kitts Tourism Authority , Racquel Brown added, “In the highly competitive Caribbean cruise marketplace, exceeding the million passenger mark for the first time is a highly significant achievement that is a direct result of our successful marketing strategy. Having reached this benchmark, St. Kitts is now considered by the cruise lines to be in the same elite port status category as much larger destinations in the region. Cruise passengers clearly enjoy our diverse range of activities and friendly, welcoming people, and we are working hard to ensure that we keep the ships and their guests returning to our shores.”

The country  reached the one million cruise passenger mark Tuesday morning with the arrival of guests from Royal Caribbean International’s Freedom of the Seas.

The ship, which has a capacity of 3,782 guests at double occupancy, docked at the island’s Port Zante cruise pier .

Tourism Minister Lindsay Grant led the welcome delegation and selected the millionth passenger upon disembarkation, who was treated to a complimentary island tour.

The  occasion was further commemorated with special t-shirts given to arriving passengers and everyone being treated to an experience of the island’s culture with live performances by a steel pan band, masquerades and more in a grand celebration befitting the importance of the milestone.

“We are very pleased to be the cruise line that brought the millionth passenger to St. Kitts,” said Federico Gonzalez, Associate Vice President, Government Relations Latin America & Caribbean, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.

“The island is a long-time, valued industry partner that offers our guests the opportunity to explore lush natural beauty, rich heritage, a wide range of attractions.  In addition, our partnership with the tourism team and their ongoing work to continually improve the infrastructure, services and amenities in St. Kitts showcases why it is one  of our destinations of choice for our Caribbean itineraries.”

So far this season, the Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. cruise lines, Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises and Azamara Club Cruises, have made a total of 102 port calls to St. Kitts, bringing over 350,000 cruise visitors to island.. Today we are at 486 calls as of today. This increase over 2016 to 2017 is 35 percent.”

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Antigua shows strongest air arrivals in 15 years

Antigua shows strongest air arrivals in 15 years

ST. JOHN’S, Jul. 18,  CMC – Antigua and Barbuda tourism officials say that for the first time in over 15 years, the country has seen the strongest overall visitor arrivals by air from January to June.

The Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority (ABTA) said it recorded 148,139 arrivals for that period with significant increases in the key source markets – the United States, Canada, United Kingdom and the Caribbean.

ABTA said this represents an overall seven per cent increase over 2017.

It said the closest the destination previously came to these figures was in 2008.

The authority said IJune demonstrated significant increases while Canada has the greatest year-over-year increase with over 170 per cent, followed by the US , the  Caribbean   and the United Kingdom .

In addition, ABTA said the destination is seeing an average 11.57 per cent increase in sea arrivals  and an average 8.6 per cent growth in occupancy rates.

This growth is set to continue with significant increased airlift from North America in the Fall 2018, the opening of the destination’s newest 5-star resort and spa, Hodges Bay, in October 2018, as well as a full cruise schedule.

“We are excited by this positive momentum in growth of arrivals, both by cruise and air,” said Minister of Tourism, Economic Development and Investment, Charles “Max” Fernandez.

“It is incredibly encouraging for the tourism industry, and I would like to congratulate the Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority, the private sector, stakeholders and all our tourism partners in helping us to reach these positive results for the first six months of the year,” he added.

“We will not rest on our laurels, and are striving for better,” Fernandez continued. “We will continue to invest in infrastructure and service and raise awareness of Antigua and Barbuda to ensure we see consistent growth in arrivals.”

ABTA chief executive officer, Colin C. James, said the first half of 2018 has shown “incredible improvement, especially in our key source markets.

“We look forward to relentlessly working towards attracting new and returning visitors, improving our on-island tourism products, as well as increasing access through our award-winning airport and port,” he said.

“We are doubling our airlift out of Miami, introducing new direct service out of New York and Canada, and welcoming new cruise ships to an already busy schedule,” he added.

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IDB launches call for proposals from startups in the Caribbean

IDB launches call for proposals from startups in the Caribbean

 

WASHINGTON, Jun. 20,   CMC – The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) has launched a call for proposals that will reward the most disruptive ventures in Latin America and the Caribbean that are using innovation to improve lives.

The Washington-based financial institution said the selected startups will participate in Demand Solutions Chile, which will take place on November 21 in Santiago, Chile.

Demand Solutions is the IDB’s flagship innovation event that brings together “the world’s most forward-thinking minds to share creative solutions to the development challenges in Latin America and the Caribbean,” the statement said.

In this edition, the IDB said startups can participate in two thematic areas.

In the first, they must provide solutions in four categories related to the cultural and creative industries: Design with social sense: sustainable fashion, smart fashion, urban art, wearable technology; and multimedia that improves lives: videogames, digital content, audiovisual content.

The other categories are: New technologies: 3D printing, blockchain, internet of things, artificial intelligence, machine learning, robotics; and export of services to global markets: production and commercialization of cultural content, export of goods and creative services.

The IDB said the 10 most innovative startups in the creative industries will be selected to participate in Demand Solutions Chile with all expenses paid for one representative per startup.

The first place will receive financial support to continue with its development, the IDB said.

Additionally, the IDB said this edition of Demand Solutions will also reward five startups that provide solutions to water and sanitation challenges in the region.

Since 2009, the IDB said along with Fundación FEMSA it was awarded the Water and Sanitation Prize for Latin America and the Caribbean “to recognize and stimulate the most innovative solutions in the water, sanitation and solid waste sectors.”

The startups interested in participating in Demand Solutions must present a solution proposal to a development challenge before July 15, the IDB said.

It said the representatives must be over 18 years old.

Winners will be notified by mail in early September 2018.

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Barbados PM wants to deepen cooperation with sub-regional group

Barbados PM wants to deepen cooperation with sub-regional group

By Ernie Seon

CASTRIES, St. Lucia, Jun. 19, CMC – The Prime Minister of Barbados Mia Mottley, has signaled her intention to deepen political and economic cooperation with the nine nation Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS).

Prime Minister Mia Mottley

In her first address outside of Barbados since assuming office, Mottley told representatives of the 65th Meeting of the OECS Authority which began its working session here Tuesday, that her administration wanted mutually beneficial solutions to critical issues such as climate change, freedom of movement and transportation challenges.

She told the gathering which included leaders of all nine member OECS states, with the exception of Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit of  Dominica who was expected later Tuesday, of the  need to resolve climate change issues, pointing to the influx of sargassum seaweed as an opportunity for economic benefit, rather than treating it as a problem that affects our coast and tourism industry.

“We have had to confront it as you do across the rest of the region, but we believe that our best efforts are when they are cooperative and to that extent our ability to harvest the sargassum weed collectively and maximize what ever economic benefits we can get from it rather than treat it as a nuisance that affects our coasts and tourism industry, is the way in which we would like to pursue discussions.”

She said that freedom of movement was another pressing concern, and finding a way forward for the regional airline LIAT.

She said from her country’s perspective, one of the troubling concerns was the inability of persons who were in-transit in Barbados for more than two hours, to clear immigration.

“It makes no sense, because it hurts the extent to which those who visit our shores are capable of contributing to our economic activity in our country.

“To that extent prior to traveling here, I have asked what are the legal obstacles preventing the movement of people who are in-transit within our air and sea ports, who are being precluded from leaving the ports, but I am yet to receive an answer that makes sense,” she told the leaders.

“If you are at a point of entry for 6 or 8 hours there is no reason to be treated as a prisoner of war within the precincts of our region,” Motley insisted.

On the issue of inter-island transportation the Barbados leader said she looks forward to engaging with the OECS leaders, ” and particularly fellow shareholders and soon to be other shareholders in the context of regional carrier, Liat.”

She however noted that she would do so, cognizant of the fact that modalities  that were relevant decades ago cannot continue to be relevant as countries enter the third decade of the 21st Century.

Motley suggested that a review of government structures was absolutely critical if the region is to ensure the viability of an airline that serves as the lifeblood of this region.

“Similarly it is time that we stopped just talking about inter-island ferry transportation and get on with establishing this vital service.

“I am aware that unless we get to the stage where we can facilitate the movement of not just people, but vehicles and cargo we will not reap the full benefit of the space we have the honour to occupy.”

She explained to facilitate such an undertaking when it comes there needed to be mutual recognition of insurance, licenses, and the equal ability for the region to see how far it is prepared to go for mutual recognition of domestic incorporation, “so as we don’t impose on citizens the additional cost and time of having to go through these exercises again, simply to facilitate free movement across the region.”

Meanwhile,  Mottley and the heads of Governments of the OECS were also meeting Tuesday  in caucus for dialogue on better ways of collaboration between Barbados and the OECS.

The agenda for the 65th Meeting includes critical areas related to climate change among them the problem of sargassum where the OECS hopes to initiate a regional approach.

“We are going to be discussing ways in which the member states can work effectively together to do clean-ups of the beaches and areas affected by sargassum but more importantly how do we turn this problem into an opportunity,” said OECS Director General Dr. Didicus Jules told journalists Monday.

He said building resilience in the Caribbean is also high on the agenda in terms of, not just infrastructure but economic, social and community resilience.

A presentation is expected by the Caribbean Climate Smart Accelerator Group which has been assisting the Caribbean in becoming the first climate smart region. During the OECS meeting, the work programme of the OECS will also be under review.

St. Lucia’s Prime Minister Allan Chastanet will hand over to incoming chairman, Prime Minister of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Dr. Ralph Gonsalves.

The OECS is made up of seven full Member States, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, Montserrat, St. Kitts Nevis, St Lucia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines; and three Associate Member States: the British Virgin Islands, Anguilla and Martinique, all of whom are expected to be represented at the summit.

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Over thirty St. Lucians deported from US, UK and Martinique

Over thirty St. Lucians deported from US, UK and Martinique

CASTRIES, St Lucia Jun. 18,  CMC-Thirty-six S t Lucians  have been deported from the United States, the United Kingdom and Martinique since the beginning of this year.

This was disclosed on Monday by the Head of the Immigration Department, Assistant Superintendent, Sean Alexander, who said the deportations stemmed from several offences including  illegal entry, possession of drugs, going to Martinique with invalid insurance documents and overstaying the allotted time granted.

According to the Immigration official, local authorities are usually alerted when S t Lucians are being deported from places like the United States, the UK and Canada.

He said the information provided includes the date of arrival and flight details.

Alexander noted that on arrival here, the deportees are interviewed by immigration officials and members of the police Special Branch.

He said the deportees are then monitored for some time, in cases where they had a criminal conviction.

Concerning St. Lucians who have overstayed their time in another country, the police official indicated that they are not monitored unless they were convicted of a serious criminal offence in the country from which they were deported.

Alexander said that the intention is to ensure that the deportees are not engaging in criminal activities once they return home.

CMC/es/kb/2018

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Contestants at Ethel Fashion Show April 12

Eight Caribbean beauties in NY beauty pageant

 

 

 

According to Yvonne Peters, the Vincentian-born president and founder of the Brooklyn-based organizing group, Caribbean American Cultural Group, Inc., the contestants hail from Belize, Guyana, Jamaica, Haiti, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

The contestants are: Reality Dopwell (Miss Belize); Breana Maxwell (Miss Jamaica); Shanah Forbes (Miss Jamaica); Jamela (Miss Guyana); Maya Grant (Miss Kingstown, St. Vincent); Kaiia Krysta Phillips (Miss Greggs, St. Vincent); Makeda Peters (Miss St Vincent & the Grenadines); and Kimberly Thomas (Miss Haiti).

Peters said the contestants will be judged on swim wear, talent, evening wear and interview.

She said the contestants’ platforms include awareness of sexual assaults on college campuses and Title IX; awareness of rape culture among high school youths; depression and suicide; combating poverty; and building self-esteem in children and youths.

Contestants at Ethel Fashion Show April 12

“Over a period of approximately four months, these young ladies are transformed into pageant contestants through various workshops, such as building a foundation for success, modeling, swimwear show case, talent show case, interviews, communication training, pageantry and dance rehearsals,” she said.

Peters said she founded the pageant in 2010 because she “always wanted to help the young people, in particular young women, in my community and give them a sense of purpose, community involvement and empowerment.

“So, the idea of a cultural pageant materialized; and, years later, we are still going strong, empowering young women to be confident in themselves and become leaders in their communities,” she said. Peters said the venue has a capacity of 1,200.

“So, we looking forward to a well-attended event for family-fun evening,” the pageant coordinator said. “We invite everyone to come out and support this community-building event, support the young people of our community and have some fun.”

Doors open at 5:00 p.m.; showtime: 6:00 p.m. sharp.

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Caribbean’s ability to address climate risks boosted by increase in funds

Caribbean’s ability to address climate risks boosted by increase in funds

WASHINGTON, Jun. 17, CMC – The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) says an increase of more than 20 per cent from the previous year by the world’s six largest multilateral development banks (MDBs) has boosted projects that help the Caribbean and other developing countries cut emissions and address climate risks.

The Washington-based financial institution said climate financing by the MDBs rose to a seven-year high of US$35.2 billion in 2017, up more than 20 per cent from the previous year.

The MDBs’ latest joint report on climate financing said US$27.9 billion, or 79 per cent of the 2017 total, was devoted to climate mitigation projects that aim to reduce harmful emissions and slow down global warming.

The remaining 21 per cent or US$7.4 billion of financing for emerging and developing nations was invested in climate adaptation projects that help economies deal with the effects of climate change, such as unusual levels of rain, worsening droughts and extreme weather events, the IDB said.

The IDB said that in 2016,  climate financing from the MDBs had totaled US$27.4 billion.

The latest MDB climate finance figures are detailed in the 2017 “Joint Report on Multilateral Development Banks’ Climate Finance,” combining data from the African Development Bank , the Asian Development Bank , the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the European Investment Bank , the Inter-American Development Bank Group (IDB and IDB Invest) and the World Bank Group (World Bank, IFC and MIGA).

The IDB said these banks account for the vast majority of multilateral development finance.

In October 2017, the IDB said the Islamic Development Bank joined the MDB climate finance tracking groups, adding that their climate finance figures will be included in reports from 2018 onwards.

The IDB said climate funds, such as the Climate Investment Funds (CIF) , the Global Environment Facility (GEF) Trust Fund, the Global Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Fund (GEEREF) , the European Union’s funds for Climate Action and others have also played “an important role in boosting MDB climate finance.”

In addition to the US$35.2 billion of multilateral development finance, the IDB said the same adaptation and mitigation projects attracted an additional US$51.7 billion from other sources of financing last year.

Of the 2017 total, 81 per cent was provided as investment loans, the IDB said.

Other types of financial instruments included policy-based lending, grants, guarantees, equity and lines of credit.

Juan Pablo Bonilla, IDB’s manager of the Climate Change and Sustainability Sector, said the bank channeled nearly US$800 million principally to increase resilience of water-related operations and other built infrastructure.

Bonilla said the region, Sub-Saharan Africa, and East Asia and the Pacific were the three major developing regions receiving the funds.

“In 2017, Latin America and Caribbean ranked highest among world regions accessing MDB climate finance,” said Gema Sacristán, IDB’s chief investment officer. “This represents an unprecedented and steady increase for the Latin America and Caribbean region over the last two years, with the IDB Group as the region’s partner of choice for investing sustainably in the region.”

The IDB said climate finance addresses the specific financial flows for climate change mitigation and adaptation activities.

“These activities contribute to make MDB finance flows consistent with a pathway toward low greenhouse gas emissions and climate-resilient development, in line with the Paris Agreement,” the IDB said.

It said the MDBs are currently working on the development of more specific approaches to reporting their activities and how they are aligned with the objectives of the Paris Agreement.

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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.”

Posted in Business/Economy/Banking, Featured, Health, International, Local, News, Regional, Science/Technology, TOURISM0 Comments

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