Dreaming of a trip to Jamaica this year, but worried that there is seaweed that is affecting most of the Caribbean?
Well before you put your dream on hold, we have all the current updates about Jamaica Seaweed Problem in 2023.
This specific seaweed is known as sargassum. It is a seaweed that is brown in color and filled with oxygen so it floats and joins to form large masses.
The seaweed is believed to have started off of the coast of South America and has grown so large it is known now called the Sargasso Sea.
Sargassum in moderate amounts is a good thing. The nutrients in the seaweed help sustain much marine life including nesting turtles. The problem is when it washes up onto the beach in large masses, begins to rot, and then stinks.
The Sargassum situation began in the Caribbean in 2011. It became a real problem in 2016 and has since been a nuisance that is often hard to predict due to changing ocean currents.
The mass itself is larger in area than Australia and seems to be growing with rising ocean temperatures caused by global warming.
Jamaica Seaweed Problem (2023): Everything You Need To Know!!
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Does Jamaica have a seaweed problem in 2023?
The short answer is Yes, but so does the rest of the Caribbean. Being surrounded by other large islands has spared Jamaica somewhat from the seaweed when compared to some of the neighboring countries.
Since Sargassum comes from the Tropical Atlantic and washes ashore from the east, the west coast of Jamaica has been the hardest hit.
Jamaica is the 3rd largest island in the Caribbean and a lot of coastline on the east side of the island that is unaffected.
But there is hope on the horizon. Many Caribbean countries including Jamaica have formed task forces to tackle the problem and are looking for long-term solutions.
Current Seaweed conditions in Jamaica
Current conditions in Jamaica vary by area.
Currently, the most affected regions in Jamaica are the Long Bay area to the east, the Annotto Bay area to the northwest, and the Kingston/ Portmore region in the southeast.
Currently, the National Environmental Planning Agency (NEPA) is reporting that several beaches in the eastern parishes of St Mary, Portland, St Thomas, and the central parish of St Catherine are being hit particularly hard this summer.
If you plan to visit Jamaica soon some of the best areas to stay in are in the west.
Although in the past we recommended popular spots like Montego Bay and Negril as good choices for a sargassum-free Carribean beach experience, the situation has changed drastically for the worse since then.
According to a report by Jamaica Observer after an interview with Richard Wallace, president of the Negril Chamber of Commerce and hotelier, the iconic seven mile white sand Negril beach received a heavy influx of sargassum in October after Tropical Storm Ian passed to the far western end of Negril.
This news came as a shock to the tourism industry who were bracing up for an huge influx of tourists after a two year drought due to COVID-19.
For the most updated conditions visit sargassummonitoring.com.
Published by independent researchers, the website has several interactive maps that are updated several times a day with the current sargassum areas in each country, including Jamaica.
Another tip to get the most updated information on the beaches in Jamaica is to look at live webcams. Many resorts and restaurants provide these so you can see what is really going on in the area with your own eyes.
Jamaica Seaweed Forecast 2023
The seaweed has shown a pattern of washing ashore when the ocean water is warmer. In Jamaica, this usually happens from early spring to mid-fall.
NEPA is predicting an increase in Sargassum over the next few months in Jamaica and expects it to have decreased by November.
With changing weather conditions and shifting currents, forecasting future conditions isn’t completely accurate. From looking at the past, concerned parties have learned a plethora of information about seaweed.
What researchers have observed is that sargassum appears to wash up on the beach in 3-year life cycles.
Blooms in 2016, 2017, and 2018 increased and then subsided in 2019 and 2020. Given that logic, 2021, 2022, and 2023 may continue to be bad.
Infact, 2023 is predicted to be as bad as 2022 or worse as per several research institutes including University of South Florida’s Optical Oceanography Lab.
There are certain precautions you can take if you come across sargassum. It can contain high levels of arsenic and other heavy metals so try not to touch it.
There can also be tiny organisms like jellyfish larvae and biting insects in the piles of seaweed which can cause skin issues.
The sargassum has also been known to cause irritation in the eyes, nose, and throat. If you have asthma or other respiratory issues, it’s best to avoid the beach altogether when sargassum is present.
Jamaica Seaweed Season 2023
Jamaica, like many other Caribbean countries, has a seaweed season that lasts from May to October with the first landfall of sargassum starting from the month of May.
The summer season, which lasts from April to October, provides ideal conditions for the reproduction of sargassum seaweed.
Especially, June and July are the peak months for sargassum season in Jamaica.
However, as the sea temperature begins to fall from November to February, the reproduction of sargassum decreases significantly.
What measures are being taken by the Jamaican government?
Here is the good news. Since the sargassum problem has been present in the Caribbean for roughly the past 11 years, there has been tons of research on the problem and many countries have come up with ingenious solutions.
There is a multitude of uses that have been discovered from sargassum. Since it is nutrient-rich algal biomass, companies are using it to manufacture fertilizer and bio-stimulants.
Pharmaceutical companies are using seaweed to make bioplastics, paper, and plant-based rubber and leather.
There is also cutting-edge research on how to use sargassum as an alternative fuel source.
The problem with removing the seaweed from the beach is that it leads to erosion of the sand. Many countries are raking the beaches with machinery and then hauling in sand from other areas which can be expensive and labor-intensive.
Some countries like Mexico have put in man-made barriers in the ocean to stop the seaweed from coming ashore. Boats collect the seaweed from the barriers and bring them to cargo ships to be delivered to sargassum treatment plants.
Scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have invented a device that can be attached to boats to collect the sargassum from the ocean in mesh bags.
The sargassum can then be forced deep into the sea, which may help remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
Currently in Jamaica, not much is being done to combat the sargassum problem. Most government and local authorities see the problem as a nuisance and only remove it from the beach in areas where it becomes really