Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, 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. Clifton, Ashton and Owia are some of the coastal communities greatly affected by inundations.

Country / Region

Ongoing efforts

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 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.

Additionally, in February 2022, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 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.

At the national level, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines possess a draft Sargassum Adaptive Management Strategy (SAMS). In 2015, an inter-ministerial Sargassum Action Task Force was appointed to manage sargassum clean-up across the country. At the local level, community level education programmes and beach-ups have taken place across the islands. Additionally, through the Climate Change Adaptation in the Eastern Caribbean Fisheries Sector (CC4FISH) project, educational products for possible agricultural application were developed.

Containment, collection and disposal

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, like other Caribbean states, continue to grapple with sargassum influxes. They have made their best attempts to contain and halt influxes before they become stranded on the beaches and in the nearshore, as well as collect and dispose the seaweed to maintain the aesthetic of their beaches. It was reported that some villas on Bequia have invested in anti-sargassum booms or barriers to contain sargassum inundations – with varying success. As it relates to collection and disposal, beach clean-up has encompassed both manual and mechanised methods. Beach attendants are typically paid to clean the beach, and have been reported to create makeshift clean-up equipment. 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”.

Regulations and legal instruments

As it relates to policy and planning for sargassum in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, the Ministry of Transport, Works, Lands and Surveys, and Physical Planning is the lead government entity.

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 Vincent and the Grenadines uses this bulletin to assist in preparing for possible sargassum inundations.

Socioeconomic and environmental impacts

Most hotels located in St. Vincent are not located in areas impacted by sargassum inundations, but hotels in the Grenadines have been critically impacted. Some resorts on Union Island even closed for prolonged periods (4 to 5 months) during periods of inundation. Furthermore, several recreational beaches across the Grenadines have been greatly affected, especially the beaches of the eastern islands.

Fisherfolk reported catch reductions in some species, namely adult dolphinfish. Increases were observed in landed juvenile dolphinfish, however; increases were also seen in crevalle catches. It was reported that the changes in dolphinfish landings have resulted in the enforcement of a minimum size limit by the Saint Vincent Fish Market. Sargassum inundations in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines have caused damage to vessels and equipment, loss of fishing days at sea, as well as an increased time spent fishing as a result of trying to navigate around Sargassum rafts during influx events. Additionally, it was reported that food security was potentially affected in some islands, e.g., Bequia, because of catch fluctuations and reduction in fishing time.

Human health has also been affected, with some people in affected communities in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines reporting respiratory issues due to exposure to hydrogen sulphide. It has been alleged by coastal residents that hydrogen sulphide is dissolving into harvested potable water in Bequia. Furthermore, it has been posited that there are decreases in mosquito population during periods of sargassum inundation.

 

Minor each erosion from improper removal methods or from the physical action of sargassum itself (in islands like Bequia) have been some of the environmental impacts resulting from sargassum inundations in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. Concern for potential impacts to turtle nests has also been expressed. The observed decline in water quality caused by inundations is also presumed to have affected coral reef health, but there is limited empirical evidence of this.

Potential uses

It is reported that sargassum is currently used as mulch in small quantities in Bequia. Testing has also taken place to determine its use as a bio-fertiliser.

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. https://openjicareport.jica.go.jp/pdf/1000041359.pdf

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