By: Curtis Morton
St. James’ Parish –Nevis- The folks in certain areas of the St.James’ Parish are currently being affected by a constant unbearable stench.
Once one gets in the vicinity of The Camps’ Methodist church from one end or in the vicinity of Nisbett’s Plantation Inn, from the other, immediately you are faced with this sharp obnoxious smell.
At first it brings back memories of a poorly maintained septic tank but residents in the area have pinned the stench down to a mass of sea weed that has covered the beach front in the general vicinity of New Castle, going right past Herbert’s Beach.
According to Andrew Hendrickson, Manager at the Nevis Solid Waste Management Authority, the uncanny phenomenon is not only affecting Nevis but also other Caribbean islands and even as far as Florida.
The NSWMA has received many reports and complaints from persons who want them to deal with the issue.
Research has revealed that the large deposits of brown sea weed which is correctly named PELAGIC sargassum, is affecting quite a number of other Caribbean islands.
It is not only making life difficult for nearby residents but it is also greatly affecting the trade of the local Fishermen.
Pelagic sargassum is a brown alga, or seaweed that floats freely in the ocean and never attaches to the ocean floor. These free-floating forms are only found in the Atlantic Ocean. Sargassum provides refuge for migratory species and essential habitat for some 120 species of fish and more than 120 species of invertebrates. It’s an important nursery habitat that provides shelter and food for endangered species such as sea turtles and for commercially important species of fish.
It is not known if this phenomenon will occur every year but it is largely predicted that islands in the Eastern Caribbean will be affected throughout 2015.
The sargassum may affect multiple locations as it is transported by currents.
The natural question raised is: how can this affect the health of human beings?
The experts are indicating that although it can smell as it decomposes, this process is not toxic to humans. Sargassum does not sting either.
When it decomposes on sand you might notice a black layer underneath, but this is normal and a sign of nature doing its work of incorporating the sargassum into the beach.
Sargassum occurs naturally on beaches, in smaller quantities. It plays a role in beach nourishment and is an important element of shoreline stability. For example, sand dune plants need nutrients from the sargassum, and sea birds depend on the sea life carried in the sargassum for food. During decomposition there will inevitably be a smell and insects around.
The experience in locations that have left the sargassum on the beach is that it will eventually get washed away or buried in the next storm, with rain easing the smell. Leaving sargassum on the beach has proven to be the simplest approach, also avoiding potential negative impacts associated with beach cleaning.
So even though residents in the general area affected in the St.James’ Parish are crying out for immediate relief and even though some are claiming that they are not getting to sleep well at nights, it would appear as if the best way to deal with the issue, is not to launch a massive beach cleanup campaign but to allow nature to take its course and eventually, the beaches will be restored to state of normalcy.
The question is: Can the residents be that patient?