Youth innovation, Caribbean ingenuity closed circle on sargassum

FILE PHOTO | A fishing boat navigating sargassum-inundated waters in St. Vincent and the Grenadines (Photo via CRFM)

Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretary-General, Dr. Carla Barnett, has praised the youth innovation and Caribbean ingenuity that has driven the transition of sargassum from a hazard and a nuisance, to a resource with several commercial applications.

The applications range from agrochemicals to cosmetics to fertilisers and even potential biofuel applications, with some Member States taking a holistic industrial engineering approach to find solutions suitable to the scale of the challenge, Secretary-General Barnett said.

At a regional conference organised by the World Maritime University (WMU) on Monday, 5 April, the she opined that sargassum inundation “is surely symptomatic of an ailing ocean, pressured by land-based sources of pollution and climate change.”

CARICOM Secretary-General Dr. Carla Barnett

Detailing the impact, she said it has “hammered” coastal tourism, smothered reef and beaches, exacerbated erosion on sandy coasts, strangled and suffocated marine life including cetaceans and turtles, negatively affected fisheries, and posed health concerns and significant challenges to clean-up.

The Secretary-General said that the Region acted as “responsible environmental stewards” by not just discarding of the seaweed, but conducting research to understand the driving factors, origins and solutions.

Through the work of the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM), the University of the West Indies (UWI), the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), to name a few, Secretary-General Barnett said the Region now has a greater understanding of the sources and oceanographic mechanisms for the proliferation of sargassum.

“We have guidelines for proper removal and disposal. We have a sense of its potential uses and strategic options for product development and commercial application,” she stated.

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