The Ministry of Health and Social Development assures the public that the floating seaweed known as Sargassum that has washed up along the beaches and shorelines poses no health threat to the Virgin Islands.

The floating brown seaweed is a marine algae that originates from the Sargasso Sea which is a region in the Gyre of the North Atlantic Ocean. The sargassum is commonly found on beaches and shorelines throughout tropical areas worldwide and undergoes seasonal cycles of growth and decay due to changes in sea temperature.

In a recent GIS Radio Report, Acting Deputy Chief and Conservation and Fisheries Officer, Mr. Mervin Hastings disclosed that there are advantages and disadvantages with the seaweed floating during the season.

“The disadvantage is that obviously when the ferries and boats come into port, as the sargassum comes in and starts to decompose, it begins to smell,” said Mr. Hastings.

The offensive smell which may resemble that of rotting eggs given off by the seaweed is the chemical hydrogen sulphide which may be an irritant to sensitive persons who should avoid close contact.

Mr. Hatings continued, “Some of the advantages are that the sargassum, [that]is out in the ocean floating provides a beautiful nursery for a lot of different fishes….it is basically like a mangrove system, the mangroves are an important nursery for fishes…..the sargassum provides the same basic principle.”

The Conservation and Fisheries Department is cautioning persons against collecting the seaweed while it is still afloat in the ocean and to wait two to three weeks after decomposition to collect it. Once it is collected it can be made into compost when the salt has been washed out or sent to the incinerator for disposal.

For more information on the sargassum seaweed and cleaning efforts, please contact the Conservation and Fisheries Department at 468-2700.

The Ministry of Health and Social Development endeavours to provide leadership that promotes health, social well-being and a safe environment.