Channel 9 is monitoring a 5,000-mile bulk of seaweed over the waters of the tropical Atlantic that has already started floating up the Florida coast.
While this type of seaweed is normal, having this much this early in the year is not.
Offshore, large floating mats of sargassum seaweed can provide a habitat for over a hundred species of fish. Once onshore, though, it’s unsightly and have a really foul odor and also contains arsenic.
“This is our concern this year – normally we start to see it come in large amounts in May, peaking in July, but we saw this begin to increase in December through January,” said Brian LaPointe, a Florida research professor who has been studying the floating brown seaweed since the 1980s.
“For eons, it has circulated between the Gulf of Mexico,” LaPointe said. “It comes around Florida via the loop current, comes up into the gulf stream into the north Atlantic.”
This belt of sargassum seaweed is growing. At 5,000 miles wide and 13 million tons of seaweed, it doubles traditional estimates of what’s “normal.”
“Some have referred to it as ‘the blob’ that’s moving into the Caribbean and towards us,” LaPointe said. “It’ll still be weeks to months before the bulk of that sargassum seaweed actually reaches our shores.”
The organization Keep Brevard Beautiful said they’re monitoring for the first reports of seaweed at the beaches and will be ready to act if needed.
As far as amounts of seaweed are growing, it’s likely that increasing levels of nitrogen from fertilizers and wastewater running out of rivers into oceans is causing large areas of seaweed to grow rapidly.
©2023 Cox Media Group