The Northern Caribbean island of Antigua is no stranger to the sargassum explosion that altered the magnificent coastlines forever since 2011. This green-brown mass of floating seaweed has invaded beaches and severely affected marine life in these areas.
For the last decade, the islands in this popular holiday destination have had to take drastic measures to secure their beaches. Sargassum starts to decompose when it lands on the beach, and the manual labor it takes to clean it up is significant.
This article will detail everything you need to know about the sargassum problem in Antigua before planning your visit in 2023.
Antigua Seaweed Problem 2023
Table of Contents
Current (Present) Seaweed Conditions In Antigua
Antigua is situated to the North of the Caribbean. It is affected by sargassum at different times of the year than the rest of the islands. The prediction for 2023 is that Antigua will experience a severe sargassum influx around April.
The sargassum mat or carpet that is floating towards the Caribbean is currently over 5000 miles and growing. The sargassum can multiply twice in 30 days, making it a prolific grower.
Sargassum is a fine-leafed yellow-brown algae that creates a tick, floating mat. It rarely sinks to the bottom of the ocean. Sargassum is swept by sea currents and wind that inevitably end up on beaches.
Antigua Seaweed Forecast For 2023
The seaweed forecast for Antigua and the entire Caribbean for 2023 is slightly grim and is said to be one for the books.
The worst months to visit Antigua would be from May to October when the sea currents tend to bring sargassum from the Gulf of Mexico.
According to CBS News, a massive sargassum bloom is currently floating toward the Gulf of Mexico, Florida, and the Caribbean. This large bloom is expected to reach coastlines around June/July 2023, although these predictions are still being determined.
The wind, storms, and currents play a significant part in where the sargassum bloom will eventually end up. Still, since Antigua is in the more Northern part of the Caribbean islands, it will likely be significantly affected by this incoming wave of seaweed.
Any of the beaches in Antigua that are exposed from the northeast will be a target for the incoming sargassum pad. The sargassum is carried from what marine biologists call the Sargasso Sea. It is an enormous carpet of sargassum carried by four major sea currents.
The sargassum phenomenon is not a recent development but was already sighted in the late 1400s by sailors. The sargassum is easy to manage in small pockets. Still, it becomes a minor natural disaster when it’s a substantial floating mat the size of an island.
The sargassum would not have become such a problem without human influence, such as fertilizer and sewerage running into the ocean via rivers and estuaries. The bouts of nitrogen increase the sargassum’s proliferation, and it becomes uncontrollable.
The best way to track the incoming seaweed threat is to frequent the NOAA or The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration website.
Many reports and predictions for the Caribbean and Antigua are found on the NOAA website. NOAA uses secondary information from the AFAI index to make predictions based on the data and algorithms. NOAACactively tracks the sargassum carpet via satellite, with real-time updates by the hour.
Resorts in Antigua rely on information from the local government, NOAA, AFAI, and the USF to prepare as well as possible for the incoming sargassum. This valuable information allows them to plan for resources they might need to send out news bulletins on their websites for guests.
In Antigua, the local government has developed an innovative method of dealing with large patches of sargassum. They use a large boat or motorized floating structure that scoops the sargassum off the ocean surface.
Once the boat is, the flat surface boat is then taken to the stationary conveyer belt that transports the seaweed off the boat. The floating device then docks onto the conveyer belt and pushes the sargassum out of the boat onto large dump trucks.
The sargassum is then transported to a dumping site, spread out in the sun, and dried. After it is dried, the seaweed is ground and processed to be used as a fertilizer. Due to the high salt content, it is processed with other.
Antigua is one of the Caribbean islands that have taken the sargassum influx and turned it into a possibly profitable business. Jobs are created, exports are done, and the economy is fed through foreign currency.
The main objective for Antigua is to keep the tourists safe, satisfied, and returning to enjoy the magnificent beaches and hospitality.
Most Seaweed-Affected Beaches/Region In Antigua in 2023
The worst sargassum-affected beaches in Antigua are Jolly Beach, Dickenson Bay, Jabberwock Beach, Fitches Creek, and Shell Beach.
Although these beaches are not exclusively affected, they have historically received the bulk of sargassum algae washing up. These beaches have several resorts dotted along the beachfront and teams of workers that clean up any new batches.
The Sandals Grande Antigua Resort is one affected resort in Dickenson Bay Beach. In March of 2023, there was a significant washup of sargassum on Dickenson Beach. Dedicated staff with rakes worked around the clock to eliminate the smelly seaweed.
Fitches Creek is the worst affected by the sargassum regularly. Some residents report suffering health issues like headaches, brain fog, and respiratory irritation due to the overwhelming rotten egg smell.
Sargassum starts to break down rapidly after 48 hours in the sun and air, turns dark brown, and becomes brittle like dry grass. The smell can be overwhelming, keeping tourists off the beaches.
Even though sargassum is unsightly, it is beneficial to some marine life. It is an ecosystem where many fish and jellyfish hide from predators. Unfortunately, without much processing, it is unsuitable for fertilizer like regular seaweed as the salt content is too high once dried.
Best Seaweed-Free Beaches/Regions To Visit In Antigua in 2023
Although bouts of sargassum washing up plague some beaches in Antigua, the magnificent and well-kept beaches in Antigua will give you various options.
The best sargassum-free beaches in Antigua are:
- Hawksbill Bay
- Pigeon Point Beach
- Ffryes Beach
- Long Bay Beach
- Fort James Beach
- Rendezvous Beach – This beach is hard to reach but worth it
- Half Moon Bay
It is difficult to say that these beaches will definitely remain sargassum free. Still, historically, these top beaches have been the least affected. In any event, the government and local resorts have learned to deal with the issue effectively since the last great beaching in 2018.
Due to the large bloom mat on the way, it is possible that the more Northeastern beaches may see an increase in sargassum beaching.
The beautiful island of Antigua has several action plans in place that continually combats the sargassum problem. The government, hotels, and citizens all work together to ensure that the invasive plant does not affect the tourists visiting this piece of paradise.
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