NOAA data shows part of sargassum cluster will reach SPI

8 months 14 hours 43 minutes ago Tuesday, April 04 2023 Apr 4, 2023 April 04, 2023 11:10 PM April 04, 2023 in News - Local

A massive floating blob of seaweed has already reached parts of Florida and Mexico, and it could soon wash up at South Padre Island.

Satellite data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows a clearly visible mass of sargassum is accumulating in the open ocean. Hudson Deyoe, professor of earth, environmental and earth sciences at UTRGV has been following its development. He’s a specialist in water ecology and algae. 

The sargassum lives on top of the water. Deyoe says it will keep absorbing sunlight and growing in mass.

“Water warms up, it begins to grow more,” Deyoe said. "As it's getting closer, it's getting bigger at the same time."

A model map from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows the entire Gulf Coast is set to get some of the sargassum.

“That current, it brings it naturally to our direction,” Deyoe explained. "That current flow is pretty consistent, so if it gets in the Gulf of Mexico, we will see it at some point."

The City of South Padre Island says it's ready to clean up what washes up. Officials said city crews will remove sargassum when accumulations are high, but will also practice sustainable management techniques.

The City of South Padre Island provided this statement:

"The City's maintenance practices regarding sargassum is a balance between providing a clean and safe beach while also practicing sustainable management techniques.

The repositioning of sargassum is only done when it is necessary. The City's procedure when there is a higher-than-normal accumulation is to rake up the sargassum, utilizing one of our tractors and rakes, and place it at the line of vegetation to help build and stabilize our dune system. 

Sargassum acts as a unique ecosystem in the water and on the beach. It is home to many juvenile fish, crabs, and shrimp that are food sources for many marine animals, such as shorebirds and sea turtles. Due to this, the City tries only to rake sargassum and any seaweed that washes ashore once it has been dried."

There are no major health concerns with accumulated sargassum. But the NOAA warns those with respiratory issues like asthma could sense irritation. 

While it may cause problems when it washes up in mass in some places, sargassum does grow and benefit life out in the open ocean, providing shelter, an oasis in what's otherwise a desert of life. 

City crews will try to leave the seaweed to dry before raking it. 

Watch the video above for the full story. 

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