DOMINICA

Dominica, like the rest of the Caribbean region, first experienced extraordinary volumes of sargassum within their nearshore waters and washed up on their beaches in 2011. Since then, influxes have been arriving annually, at varying intensities, impacting critical industries (namely tourism and fishing) as well as the coastal environment. Marigot, Scott’s Head, and Thibaud are some of the coastal communities greatly affected by inundations.

Country / Region

Ongoing efforts

Dominica is one of five countries participating in the ‘SargAdapt Project’ (full title: Adapting to a new reality: Managing responses to influxes of sargassum seaweed in the Eastern Caribbean as ecosystem hazards and opportunities), led by the Centre for Resource Management and Environmental Studies (CERMES) at the University of the West Indies (UWI) Cave Hill Campus in Barbados. The project aims to reduce the impacts of and improve adaptation to sargassum influxes in the Eastern Caribbean.

In January 2019, the Fisheries Division of Dominica requested a proposal from Resilify Inc and for them “to research causes, drivers, impacts, uses and the existing policy and legal framework surrounding sargassum management in Dominica”. This led to Resilify developing a Strategic Sargassum Preparedness Plan intended “to provide an effective, feasible, and innovative strategy for managing the sargassum influx”.

Dominica employs a decentralised local community response to sargassum influxes, but a centralised national response plan is under development. At the national level, the Strategic Sargassum Preparedness Plan (a long-term mitigation strategy/road map was prepared for the Fisheries Division. Additionally, it has been recommended by the Ministry of Environment, Climate Resilience, Natural Disaster, and Urban Renewal that a Sargassum Action Committee be formed. At the local level, community clean-ups have occurred, as needed.

Containment, collection and disposal

Only short-term solutions, as outlined in Strategic Sargassum Preparedness Plan have been used as guidance for collection and disposal of sargassum; this includes manual collection and disposal methods such as raking, and burying the sargassum.

Regulations and legal instruments

As it relates to policy and planning, the Fisheries Division is the lead agency in sargassum management in Dominica.

Monitoring, modeling and early warnings systems

CERMES has been producing a forecast bulletin called the Sargassum Subregional Outlook Bulletin which provides the region with a prediction of the magnitude of sargassum influx events. Implications of the events on the tourism and fisheries sectors as well as the environment are provided. Like other Caribbean states, Dominica uses this bulletin to assist in preparing for possible sargassum inundations.

Socioeconomic and environmental impacts

Dominica, like other Eastern Caribbean states, experience sargassum inundations on the windward coast – that is, the east coast. However, due to geographic location, influx events are not as frequent as Eastern Caribbean Island States lower down in the island chain.

Fortunately, Dominica’s beach tourism was completely unaffected by sargassum events as none of the recreational beaches have experienced strandings of a volume that require clean-up. Human health impacts were uncommon because areas experiencing high inundations are sparsely populated.

While most of the fish landing sites are located on the leeward coast (completely unimpacted by sargassum), the few fish landing sites on the windward coast are exposed to sargassum influxes and, fisherfolk at these sites reported damage of vessels and equipment due to entanglement, as well as obstructed access to fish aggregating devices and landing sites. Additionally, changes in the types of fish caught have been observed. This includes an increase in amberfish/crevalle and lobster landings, as well as juvenile dolphinfish, and a decline in pelagic fish such as flyingfish, dolphinfish, jacks and robins landings.

Despite various ecosystems being exposed to sargassum influxes, there has been no reports of the impact it has on them.

Potential uses

Apart from the common application of rinsed sargassum as compost or fertiliser, as seen in other Caribbean states, there are no novel uses of sargassum reported in Dominica.

Sources

Written by J. Irvine

Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism, and Japanese International Cooperation Agency. 2019. “Fact-Finding Survey Regarding the Influx and Impacts of Sargassum Seaweed in the Caribbean Region.” Draft report. Belize: CRFM-JICA.

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