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In recent years, the Caribbean has been plagued by invasions of Sargassum seaweed, but the 2018 invasion is unbelievably heavy and unprecedented.

On Tuesday, March 6th, 2018, a massive blanket of Sargassum seaweed began washing in and coating Bonaire’s eastern, windy, coastline.  Sargassum is a brown alga that makes up the floating seaweed mats known as the Sargasso Sea in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. In the open ocean, these floating mats are extremely diverse, providing important habitat for over 250 species of fish and invertebrates, many of which are not found anywhere else. Sometimes a piece of the mat breaks off and travels to the Caribbean where it ends up on our shorelines.

Bonaire’s response to the Sargassum.

An immediate response was made to battle the tons and tons of Sargassum, because once the Sargassum hits the shore, it either washes up or accumulates, sinks and rots. When it rots, all of the oxygen gets used up and hydrogen sulfide forms, both of which cause massive die-offs of marine life. A lot of baby turtles, lobsters and fish may be killed as a result of this. Bonaire needs volunteers to assist in freeing any live trapped creatures (e.g. sea turtles, hatchlings, eels and other fishes and invertebrates).

Due to several days of severe storms in the northern Caribbean in the past week, it is expected that more Sargassum will drift toward Bonaire in the coming days as well.

An emergency response team has been quickly put together, with nearly military precision, to battle this natural foe.

  • A temporary command center has been set up at Sorobon Resort.  Cleanup begins today at Sorobon and then will move to other affected areas as quickly as possible.
  • Heavy equipment operators and trucks have been offered to assist with removal of the sargassum after volunteers check for any living animals.
  •  STINAPA has been asked to coordinate the massive effort and has nearly all staff on-site this morning to manage the cleanup.

Call for volunteers.

Starting today at 8:30 AM, any volunteers willing to assist can report to Sorobon, the initial area of cleanup. If you can help, please report as soon as possible to Sorobon, and bring gloves and a bucket or other type of container for collecting marine creatures.  People with shovels, rakes, and wheelbarrows are also welcome to help get rid of the seaweed in the water and along the coastline.

It is likely this cleanup will continue in the coming days.  Those who can continue to help can learn where to report at STINAPA’s Facebook page.

Bonaire is blessed with caring, helpful people–both residents and visitors alike–who never hesitate to step up to help in situations such as this.  If you are able, please do your best to help in this effort to save our sea creatures!

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Susan Davis, Bonaire InsiderSusan Davis has been living on Bonaire for over 25 years. She is a PADI Master Instructor, a certified bird guide, and an underwater and topside photographer. She also enjoys writing for The Bonaire Insider tourism news blog. 

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