SAINT LUCIA

Saint Lucia, 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. Dennery, Micoud, Praslin, Savannes Bay, Sandy Beach, and L’Anse Capitaine are some of the coastal communities greatly affected by inundations.

Country / Region

Ongoing efforts

Saint Lucia 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. As part of a regional strategy to help manage sargassum influxes, a Draft Sargassum Adaptive Management Strategy (SAMS) was developed for the Department of Fisheries of Saint Lucia under the Climate Change Adaptation in the Eastern Caribbean Fisheries Sector (CC4FISH) Project in 2021.

In February 2022, Saint Lucia became one of five beneficiaries of sargassum removal equipment valued at US$2 million, from the Government of Japan by way of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) – under “The Project for Improving National Sargassum Management Capacities in the Caribbean.” It will aid in Saint Lucia’s efforts towards finding avenues for industry in the face of this climate-linked crisis.

Saint Lucia like many Caribbean countries has used both centralised national response and decentralised local community response to help manage the inundation of sargassum along the coastline of the island. The island implemented a Saint Lucia National Strategy for the management of sargassum influxes on beaches, bays and small harbours. A sargassum task force was also created in 2017 which included Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, Physical Planning, Natural Resources and Co-operatives to help manage sargassum influxes. However, the Sargassum Task Force has been discontinued. The Department of Fisheries developed a Draft Guidelines for Removal and Disposal of Sargassum protocol. At the local level, the CC4FISH project provided communities affected by sargassum inundations with equipment and tools to conduct clean-up activities. Communities were also provided with education programmes regarding sargassum.

Containment, collection and disposal

Once sargassum has landed, hoteliers or local authorities remove sargassum from beaches either by manual labour or heavy equipment. As part of the Sargassum Management Plan, Saint Lucia has hopes to purchase barriers to help contain sargassum influxes. The island is also expected to receive more equipment such as floating boom barriers, aquatic conveyors, work boats, machine surface beach rakes, tractors, and dump trucks through “The Project for Improving National Sargassum Management Capacities in the Caribbean”. Algas Organics and the Saint Lucia Fisherfolk Cooperative Society Ltd work together to clean and collect sargassum from beaches on the east coast of Saint Lucia.

Regulations and legal instruments

Saint Lucia has various instruments in place to help with the management of sargassum influxes. There is a Saint Lucia National Strategy for the Management of Sargassum Influxes on Beaches, Bays and Small Harbours. The government also established a Sargassum Task Force in 2017 which consisted of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, Physical Planning, Natural Resources and Co-operatives. However, the task force has been discontinued. Despite this there is still a lead agency (The National Conservation Authority (NCA)) responsible for the management of clean-up of primarily recreational beaches.

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, Saint Lucia uses this bulletin to assist in preparing for possible sargassum inundations.

Socioeconomic and environmental impacts

Sargassum inundations occur mainly on the windward coast of Saint Lucia like most Eastern Caribbean Island States, with occasional landings occurring on the southwest coast. This influences which assets are impacted.

Most tourism assets in Saint Lucia are located on the north west coast of the island. However, there are a few on the windward coast of the island which are exposed to sargassum inundations. Recreational beaches on exposed coasts are exposed to sargassum inundations and fouling of the water has occurred due to the decomposition of sargassum and this has reduced the quality of the beaches. This has unfortunately led to tourists cancelling their trips. Along with impacts occurring on the windward coast, there has been some impacts to tourism assets on the west coast within the Soufriere Marine Management Area.

Similar to the tourism, most fisheries assets are located on the leeward coast of the island which is generally unexposed to sargassum influxes. However, a few fisheries assets located on the windward coast have been impacted. This has resulted in the ceasing of fishing at some fish aggregating devices and landing sites. There has also been decreased access to fish landing sites exposed to sargassum influxes. Sargassum influxes have also affected the use of some fishing equipment such as seine nets at some fishing locations due to entanglement with sargassum. Fish catch has also been impacted with fluctuations in dolphinfish catches, increased catches in cawa and jacks and decreased in king fish and flying fish catches.

 

There have been reports of respiratory health issues arising from exposure to hydrogen sulphide from rotting Sargassum, especially amongst people from the fishing communities located on the windward coast of the island. People have also reported that rashes occur after physical contact with sargassum. Notably, there is a need for research on the effects of heavy metals found in sargassum on the population.

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

Potential uses

Like other Caribbean countries impacted by sargassum influxes, Saint Lucia has been resourceful and been using sargassum as an organic fertiliser, in conjunction with Algas Organics and the Saint Lucia Fisherfolk Cooperative Society Ltd which has led to the establishment of the first Sargassum Seaweed Processing Facility in the Caribbean. This initiative has provided livelihoods for community members and alternative livelihoods for fisherfolks.

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.

Government of Saint Lucia. 2014. Fifth National Biodiversity Report for Saint Lucia. CBD.

Sealys, Catherine. 2017. “Saint Lucia National Strategy for Management of Sargassum Influxes On Beaches, Bays and Small Harbours.” St. Lucia: CC4FISH.

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