Experts and professionals converged on Mosquito Island this week in hopes of finding a solution to the Sargassum seaweed plague that many say will return and bombard shorelines in the region.
Last year thick brown heaps of Sargassum weeds littered beaches, affected marine life and threatened tourism in many Caribbean destinations. At the time a concrete solution was not found, but the various attendees at this week’s conference announced that they will not be waiting for Sargassum to return to formulate a plan.
A wide range of professionals in various fields of interest attended the conference that is a joint undertaking between the Government of the BVI, Virgin Group, and Virgin Unite, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the OECS, and the Caribbean Council.
His Excellency, Governor John Duncan noted that the seaweed phenomenon is not new to the region. He urged the gathering to ensure that their conclusion presents the positives, and benefits of the Sargassum situation: “Avoid a conclusion that will cause others to lament that it is someone else’s fault,” Mr. Duncan told the conference. In fact, the Governor urged the gathering to find solutions that leaders can implement.
Premier, Dr. the Hon. D. Orlando Smith explained that the Territory’s economic well-being was impacted by the abundance of Sargassum. He said government formed partnerships to mitigate the Sargassum plague, and he added that government intends to build further on those partnerships
“This will be a roadmap for further action and getting an understanding of driving forces that are influencing changes in the environment. I look to this conference to build on similar one…Let us capitalize on the alliance we have forged with the conference partners,” the Premier said.
Founder of Virgin Group, and Virgin Unite, Sir Richard Branson said that he was concerned during the recent Sargassum offensive and stated that he is happy to partner to find the economic link in the situation in order to turn the negative into a positive.
Deputy Premier and Minister for Natural Resources and Labour, Dr. the Hon. Kedrick Pickering announced that the Sargassum problem is a direct effect of changes in the environment. He said that he is hopeful that the conference will provide solutions and highlight economic potentials. “We are here to let our collective minds together deal with the passing matter of the day. When we are finished we hope to have some concrete ideas to deal with the Sargassum seaweed,” he said.
Head of the Caribbean and Central America Department of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Alan Gogbashian, announced that the FCO is also optimistic that through collective efforts the Sargassum menace can turn into an opportunity. He said that the conference is an important step forward and the outcome will influence the next stage of combating the seaweed problem.
Head of the Oceans Governance Unit of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States, Dr Asha Singh acknowledged the leadership of the BVI for spearheading the conference and told the gathering that one of the things that must be recognized is that “Sargassum is a problem that when it hits our beaches it can take away the visitors from our shores.”
“It is hitting our shores in tons and magnitudes that we have never seen before,” Dr. Singh said. She also announced that the OECS will lend support to propel the discourse to the next point.