Tag Archives: Caribbean sargassum

Sargassum Festival Kicks Off Blacktip Island’s Summer Season

sargassum fest

The continued influx of sargassum choking Blacktip Island’s beaches will be the focus of Sunday’s inaugural Stink Off festival at Sandy Bottoms Beach Resort, celebrating the rotting seaweed. (photo by Wendy Beaufort/BTT staff)

Blacktip Island will mark the beginning of summer this Sunday with its first-ever Stink Off Sargassum Festival, a lemons-to-lemonade approach to the waves of decomposing sea algae flooding the small Caribbean island’s beaches and coastal waters, organizers said Thursday.

“Sargassum’s here to stay, so we’re making the best of it,” Stink Off committee chair Jay Valve said. “Sure, all the rotting seaweed piled on the beaches make it tough to get to the water, and the smell’ll about knock you out if you’re downwind, but rather than cut and run, we’re gonna celebrate it.

“We’ll have a sargassum sculpture contest, a sargassum cook-off, and sargassum fights for the kids,” Valve said. “There’ll also be a swim-in-sargassum race, a name-that-biting-fly contest and a sargassum-themed parade on the beach, where participants will dress as sargassum, or any creature that lives in or around it. It’ll truly be fun for the entire family.”

Many on the island welcomed the event’s positivity.

“It’s great folks are focusing on how to move forward despite this stinky nuisance,” Angela Fisher said. “I’m looking forward to the Most Unusual Use contest—with ‘wet’ and ‘dry’ divisions—the sargassum-based skin care products and the Stank Neutralizer event. It’s also great they’re providing complimentary cortisone showers and oxygen treatment for all participants.”

Others questioned the wisdom of celebrating the decomposing algae.

“Big picture, embracing a nuisance is a great way to raise peoples’ spirits, but there is a downside, health wise, in this case” public health director Dr. Azul Tang said. “Rotting sargassum releases hydrogen sulfide. That’s what gives it that rotten egg smell. But hydrogen sulfide is also highly toxic and can cause severe respiratory distress, or even death.

“The idea of frolicking in miles of this stuff, of physical exertion while breathing large concentrations of toxic gas, is medically irresponsible,” Tang said. “We can’t stop it, though, so we’ll have both our medical staff nearby, with lassoes, to rescue any participants who pass out.”

Community leaders, meanwhile, are poised to make the most of the event.

“You’ve got to seize opportunities like this,” de facto island mayor Jack Cobia said. “We’re losing tourism dollars now because of the sargassum. This idea of Jay’s’ll turn that around. We’re gonna market Blacktip as the sargassum capitol of the Caribbean.

“We aim to get folks coming to Blacktip because of the sargassum,” Cobia said. “We’ll have a sargassum museum, interactive sargassum tours and an underwater viewing chamber. We’re also doing t-shirts, caps and hoodies made from 100 percent repurposed Blacktip Island sargassum. And they won’t be exported, so folks’ll have to come here to get them. Couple of us are also working on ways to bottle the gas to export for riot control.”

Stink Off activities are scheduled to start at noon Sunday at Sandy Bottoms Beach Resort. The parade will start at 4 p.m. Respirators are recommended for all events.

Leave a comment

Filed under best scuba diving novels, Caribbean, Scuba Diving

Sargassum Scooper To Protect Blacktip Island Beaches

sargassum collector

Sargassum seaweed has covered Blacktip Island’s beaches in recent months, causing many tourists to cut short or cancel their visits. A group of local scientists are testing their ‘Dr. Port’s Sargasstic Super Scooper’ seaweed collector off the island’s west coast in hopes it will alleviate the problem. (photo courtesy of Jonathan Wilkins)

A Blacktip Island civic group has deployed a giant seaweed vacuum device off the Caribbean island’s west coast in an attempt to control the mounds of sargassum seaweed washing up on beaches upwind of the island’s resorts.

“The sea’s choked with sargassum these days,” Blacktip Island Chamber of Commerce president Jay Valve said. “The beaches’re knee-high in rotting seaweed. Tourists can’t get to the water, and the stench’ll gag a maggot.

“It’s so thick in the water it’s even clogging seawater intakes on dive boats,” Valve said. “Blacktip Haven’s Sea Monkey blew an engine overheating from the stuff.”

The device’s inventors have dubbed it the Dr. Port’s Sargasstic Super Scooper.

“It’s basically a smaller version of that machines that’s skimming plastic from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, just modified for seaweed,” Tiperon University-Blacktip engineering chair Sally Port said. “Giant, floating booms go out 50 feet on either side and funnel the sargassum into a central processing chamber.

“We tweaked the basic design with parts scrounged at the dump,” Port said. “Its heart and soul are a couple of scooter engines, a refrigerator compressor and the drum from a big washing machine. It grinds the seaweed into micro pellets, combines them with salt pulled from the seawater to make them negatively buoyant and shoots them back out into the ocean.”

Island environmentalists worry the Scooper will create more problems than it solves.

“That’s literally tons of detritus they’re releasing into the sea,” Blacktip Island Greenpeace spokesperson Harry Pickett said. “If even a fraction of that settles on the reefs, it could smother the coral and wipe out the underwater ecosystem.

“As stinky as the rotting seaweed is, that’s better for the island and its economy than dead reefs,” Pickett said. “This island lives or dies with the scuba industry. No coral reefs, we’re screwed.”

Scientistss say that worry is unfounded.

“The preliminary models we ran showed the macerated vegetative matter should actually nourish the coral,” marine biology professor Ernesto Mojarra said. “In theory, it should make the reefs healthier than ever.

“Now, all that particulate matter will kill the visibility. No denying that,” Mojarra said. “But the models suggest the increased nutrient levels will attract manta rays, so, long term, Blacktip should benefit from even more scuba-diving guests.”

Island officials say they hope to expand the program soon.

“We’ve deployed the Scooper on a slow sweep upwind of all the resorts to maximize its effect,” island mayor Jack Cobia said. “That protects Blacktip’s major population centers, but it’s short term.

“The next step is to extend the gizmo’s booms far enough to protect the whole west coast,” Cobia said. “If it works well, we plan to export the things, too. Ideally, this could save the entire Caribbean tourism industry.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Caribbean, Scuba Diving