Sargassum Seaweed To Start Invading Florida Beaches In May

Sargassum Seaweed To Start Invading Florida Beaches In May

It’s unknown how much sargassum will wash ashore on South Florida’s coasts. However, according to historical records, it is expected that the most affected areas include the Keys and the stretch that goes from Miami to Jacksonville

These areas will be mostly sargassum-free until the end of May, according to reports.

In March, scientists observed only 75 percent of the amount of sargassum seen in the same month last year. It’s a positive number but still very high.

“Unlike most previous years, total sargassum amount decreased from about 9 million metric tons in February to about 6.5 million metric tons in March,” reads a report from USF’s Optical Oceanography lab. 

“The total amount in March was still above 75% of all previous March months, indicating 2024 could still be a major sargassum year, they concluded.

Countries like Mexico and the Dominican Republic have started to report an increase in the arrival of the alga after months of enjoying small quantities of it. 

Mexico had to elevate its sargassum alert to “Level Two,” as the country has seen a spike in seaweed in Cancun and nearby towns.

As per local forecasts, Playa del Carmen alone will be receiving up to 300 tones per day over the next few weeks.

For its part, Dominican Republic beaches have reported a rise in sargassum since two weeks ago.

Most Caribbean nations also suffering the ravages of this phenomenon have opted to invest in vessels equipped with special technology to collect the seaweed in the open sea. In the United States, such an option is currently prohibited, as sargassum provides shelter for marine species.

Florida has hired specialized workers who clean beaches twice a week using heavy machinery but only where turtles may nest.

As a result, local communities are on the verge of seeing major losses in tourism revenue. 

“Economically, a “severe” sargassum event could have more than a $20 million impact in just the Keys alone,” said FAU research professor Brian Lapointe.

Sargassum Season in 2023 and Forecast for 2024

Multiple authorities have expressed that this year, sargassum season might not be as hard as it was in 2023. But it’ll be relevant.  

For instance, in countries like Mexico the season officially started at the end of March, while last year, beaches were covered with seaweed by the end of January.

Last year, the Great Atlantic Sargassum Belt, which was nothing but a massive 5,000-mile-long mass of seaweed, threatened ecosystems, livelihoods and tourism industries across the Caribbean, according to researchers at the University of South Florida.

In December 2023, the size of the bloom broke records which is a telltale sign that this year we’ll also see an important arrival.   

“This [satellite observations made in December] indicates that 2024 will be another major Sargassum year,” USF sargassum academic experts published in January.