Giant Seaweed Blooms Taking Over Atlantic Ocean, Rotting on Beaches

by Chris Haney

Massive amounts of seaweed blooms have taken over the Atlantic Ocean, and are clogging shorelines in Mexico, according to reports from the BBC.

The huge groups of seaweed are choking the Atlantic and becoming an issue on beaches in Mexico and around the Caribbean. The enormous sargassum blooms are threatening the tourism industry, in addition to biodiversity and fisheries. Since 2011, the annual seaweed blooms have increased significantly, according to researchers at the University of South Florida.

“2011 was a tipping point. Before that we did not see much sargassum,” USF researcher Mengqiu Wang explained. “After that we are seeing recurring, massive sargassum blooms in the central Atlantic.”

While in the ocean, the sargassum serves multiple purposes. For example, it is a natural habitat for turtle hatchlings and hundreds of species of fish. However, it becomes a gigantic problem once it washes ashore. The masses of rotting seaweed are extremely potent, and their foul smell compares to rotten eggs. Additionally, the foul-smelling sargassum can deter tourism and attract unwanted insects.

Seaweed Blooms Force National Emergency in Barbados

(Photo credit should read RODRIGO ARANGUA/AFP via Getty Images)

During the summer of 2018, an unbelievably enormous string of sargassum appeared in the Atlantic Ocean. In fact, the massive seaweed strands connected from the shores of the Gulf of Mexico to West Africa. In total, it stretched more than 5,000 miles and became known as the great Atlantic sargassum belt. To this day, it is the largest ever recorded.

The 2018 event became such an issue that the government of Barbados declared a national emergency. The country’s shorelines became overrun with the seaweed. Furthermore, Mexican president Andrés Manuel López Obrador said in 2019 that the clean-up would cost at least $2.7 million.

Researchers are still not sure what has caused the masses of seaweed in the ocean. Yet, some scientists think that global warming is a contributing factor to growth. They also say that deforestation of the Amazonian rainforests may be an issue as well.