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What A Difference a Day Can Make! Sargassum and Shuts Down

Sargassum is Back

Sargassum is here on North Ambergris Caye.  After a blissful 2020 without it.  (It might be the only characteristics of 2020 that I can call “blissful”)Sargassum on Ambergris Caye

But let me back up a bit for those who don’t know what sargassum is!  You lucky people!

What is Sargassum?

Sargassum or sargasso (the plural) is a free-floating algae or seaweed that never attaches to the ocean floor – so it can procreate while floating.

There is a HUGE area of the Atlantic that is called the Sargasso Sea – it was spotted by Christopher Columbus in one of his voyages.   It harbors and shields all sorts of sea life and is a nursery for baby turtles and eels and fish…all sorts of things live in and under the sargasso.

Pic from Wikipedia – the sea.

Apparently, there has always been a good amount of sargassum on the Florida shores and scattered throughout the Caribbean.

But in 2015 – it felt like OUT OF NOWHERE, the beach of Ambergris Caye were inundated with it.  (I took lots of pics and wrote about it for the first time in March, 2015:  Sargasso, You are Starting to Bring Me Down & I Need Answers!)

2015 Picture of My favorite Super Cute Ugly Dog in downtown San Pedro

It lasted until summer.  And then it came in dribs and drabs…bad days…a few and then weeks without.  2018 it was back with a vengeance and then 2019?  It lasted for most of the year.

Islands and beaches around the Caribbean were desperate for a solution.  The Mexican Riveria/Cancun mobilized and bought cleaning boats, talked about processing plants and set up monitoring stations.  You can view the monitoring here on Facebook.

Here is the updated chart.

2019, a Belize state of Emergency was declared.  Ambergris Caye received a grant from the government to tackle the issue.  There was talk to buy a floating sea barrier that would protect the whole of San Pedro town.

But then…at the very end of 2019, it disappeared from our shoreline and…much of this was forgotten.  Out of sight, out of mind.  There is SO much other stuff to worry about!

What causes sargassum?

The main theory is that it is a combination of warming sea temps and the massive amounts of fertilizers and wastewaters that are dumped in the sea – mainly by the US and Brazil.  More warmth, more fertilizer, more growth.  Makes sense.  In 2019, there were articles about it in international publications: The Atlantic, Forbes and Discover.

If you don’t believe in climate change – I think that the top theory is that it was sent by the devil…or Obama?  It’s hard to keep my conspiracy theories straight.

2020 has been perfection (when it comes to this brown stuff only) – beautiful sandy beaches only on Ambergris Caye!  And though there have been some articles of the algae reaching other Caribbean shores, we’ve been lucky.  (Interesting and extensive article asking if it is “The New Normal” in Jamaica)

Some places have found things to do with it – in small batches mainly – from fertilizer to face creams.  But doing all that requires LOTS of money.  And lots of freshwater.  And probably a way to separate plastics and micro-plastics.  Things we don’t have.  Especially now.   So CLEARLY gone = good.

But Friday, Jeff went flying fishing on the beach near our house.  And he said there was a smattering of sargasso coming in.  A good thing.  He saw permit, bonefish and even large tarpon feeding on the baby fish and mollusks that travel in the shade of the sargasso.

Photos of the Influx

Thursday, July 9, Day One

Friday, Day 2

But Saturday afternoon we could see large rust colored mats coming over the reef…and so when I went to walk the dogs yesterday?

Saturday, Day 3

ARGH!

Here are some more pictures from yesterday’s walk…

Sargassum on Ambergris Caye

Could it disappear tomorrow?  Yes!  Could it linger for a week or more?  Yes…

When resorts are open and thriving, this stuff is generally whisked away in a day…or less.  Now?  It’ll probably sit.

Pictures from 2018

State of Emergency in the North West Corner of Belize – Orange Walk District

The Belize International Airport is re-opening on August 15th, 2020 for visitor arrivals.  For the first phase of opening, there will be restrictions in place that include COVID testing, a tracking app and limited movement (for more on the restrictions, see here.)

The country of Belize is working slowly and carefully to keep the citizens of the country safe.  Land borders are closed and will remain closed for the foreseeable future.  Both Mexico and Guatemala are still seeing rising cases – and all of our most recent COVID positive cases have been “border jumpers”.

As of Friday evening, the border villages of Blue Creek and San Felipe, Orange Walk district have been declared “locked-down” as new cases have been discovered and contact tracking is underway.

You can see the villages in the orange dot on the map below – it is a generally rural area of the country but one that has some unique issues.

I visited Blue Creek in 2016 – and it is one of the most interesting and unique towns in Belize.  BY FAR.  

It’s also a hub for agriculture and poultry and JUST across the border (you can literally walk across the river in points – though ILLEGALLY) from a village called La Union, Mexico.  (I visited there too – though we took a tiny boat)

The boat cost $1bzd.

Belize is doing what she needs to do to contain the virus and…that’s a very good thing.  Let’s hope everyone remains safe in that area.

Here is the news article from Belize’s LoveFM.

**FOUR MORE CASES**

COVID-19 UPDATE

Our enhanced surveillance and now routine laboratory testing for SARS-CoV2 has…

Posted by Love FM Belize – News and Music Power on Friday, July 10, 2020

 





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