The Sargassum Regional Conference 2016 took place on 21st March in Moskito Island, property of entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson in British Virgin Islands. The conference focussed on the Sargassum seaweed challenges that the Caribbean is presently facing and on the opportunities to turn these seaweed into an economically viable resource.
Sargassum is a brown macro algae from the genus Fucales, brought into the Caribbean by global current patterns. In open waters, floating Sargassum are an important part of the ecosystem and a habitat for an array of species such as fishes, sea turtles, marine birds, crabs, shrimps. However it becomes a serious problem when it reaches the beaches and starts decomposing, as it starts to release hydrogen sulfide. The gas is colourless, poisonous, highly flammable and it spreads an unpleasant odour. Therefore the accumulation of Sargassum on the shores creates problems also to the local tourism industry. Sir Branson indicated that the ultimate goal should be to stop the seaweed from reaching the shores of the Caribbean, while exploring the potential of harnessing the economic benefits of this macroalgae. For this reason the conference gathered international seaweed experts and stakeholders from across the sub-region to discuss strategies to cope with this seaweed, which heavily affected the Caribbean shores last year.
Julie Maguire – DOMMRS, was one of the invited speakers for this conference. She presented the opportunities offered by growing seaweeds for the production of bioproducts and bioplastics, their cultivation in integrated multi-trophic aquaculture systems and the lessons learned in the IDREEM project.