Humans Have Created a New Natural Disaster

This dead green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas)—an endangered species—was found tangled in Sargassum on the island of Barbados on 8 June. (Photo by CARLA DANIEL via Science Magazine)
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Massive seaweed infestations are killing sea turtles and befouling beaches across the Caribbean—and scientists say it’s just the beginning.

(New Republic) “Beach, eat, drink, dance, repeat.” These are Rihanna’s favorite things to do in Barbados. In a June 7 interview with Conde Nast Traveller, the pop star gushed over her home country, a small island nation in the middle of the Caribbean. “When I’m in Barbados, all is right with the world,” she said. But not all was right with Barbados.

The same day, the local The Daily Nation newspaper reported on an “invasion of the Sargassum seaweed”—a brown, leafy algae that had washed up in thick mats on the white-sand beaches of the island’s eastern shores. The next day, the country’s government declared it a national emergency. Seen from afar, the bloom looked like a coppery oil spill slicking the sea. But a closer look revealed dead wildlife entangled within it.

The June Sargassum invasion in Barbados claimed the lives of three sea turtles, six dolphins, and “countless” fish and eels, The Daily Nation reported. But surely more have perished in the months since, as sheets of the bulbous-tipped seaweed—sometimes several feet deep—have become regular visitors to the country’s eastern and southern shorelines.

“We’ve had mass mortality of sea turtles that have gotten trapped under ever-thickening piles,” said Hazel Oxenford, a Barbados-based fisheries biologist at the University of the West Indies. “When the turtles try to come up for air, they drown.” Because these Sargassum beachings are primarily happening during nesting season, which runs from March until the end of October, baby turtles attempting to crawl from their eggs toward the ocean are also getting caught in it.

Read more at: New Republic

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