UK seeks solutions to Sargassum problem in the Caribbean

The government of the United Kingdom (UK) has launched a call for research proposals on how to deal with the problem of  Sargassum seaweed in the Caribbean region.

 In the last few years, the region has experienced massive influxes of Sargassum, which have threatened the marine ecosystems, economy and public health of the Caribbean countries.

The Sargassum mats can smother coral reefs, seagrass beds and mangroves, reducing oxygen levels and biodiversity. In many places, including the Virgin Islands, it has washed up on beaches, creating foul-smelling piles that deter tourists and affect coastal communities. Moreover, some species of Sargassum contain high levels of arsenic and sulfide, which can pose health risks to humans and animals.

The government of UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, last week, in response to requests from Caribbean leaders, invited partners to submit proposals for up to £300k (USD$374k) before October 10th. The research should advance commercial, scalable, safe solutions to process, sink or store the Sargassum seaweed.

A statement from the British High Commission in Bridgetown said “finding solutions to Sargassum influxes could be vital to the Caribbean’s sustainable development and climate resilience”.

The UK has been supporting the Caribbean region in tackling the Sargassum challenge since 2015, through various initiatives such as providing satellite imagery, mapping tools, early warning systems and best practices.

The call for research proposals is part of the UK’s commitment to strengthen its partnership with the Caribbean and support its recovery from the impacts of climate change.