May 23, 2024

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Stinking seaweed invades the beaches of the Dominican Republic

Stinking seaweed invades the beaches of the Dominican Republic

The waters of Santo Domingo’s waterfront Malecon are darkened by brown algae that tractors busily pick up: Sarcasm proliferation worries the Dominican Republic, which lives largely off tourism.

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At the moment, the areas of Santo Domingo and San Pedro de Macoris on the southern coast of the country are the most affected. Rotting seaweed stinks along the beaches.

Sargassum levels are lower in the east in the province of Altagracia, where the famous seaside resorts of Punta Cana and La Romana are located.

But reports received at the Ministry of Tourism in April indicate that 42.5% of supervised beaches in this tourist area had sarcasm in April. Only 25% were infected in January.

About 24 million tons of seaweed reached Dominican shores between January and March, up from 14 million in the same period last year. And experts predict that the volume will increase further.

“Ten years ago, we saw sargassum three months a year, but today they’re almost year-round, from March to November,” says marine biologist Andrea Valcarcel, head of the nation’s marine laboratory division.

Hoteliers, concerned about their image and the comfort of tourists, pay brigades to pick algae in Punta Cana.

“Sargas is also a huge economic burden. Most hotels are affected by this and have invested in barriers (to stop the growth of algae) and collecting algae in the sea and on land,” explained AFP David Livre, president of the hotel association.

While the Dominican Republic (10.5 million people) welcomes 8.5 million visitors in 2022, he warns, “If the volume continues to increase, it will have a negative effect.”

For a dozen years, this brown algae has been invading the coasts of the Caribbean, Guyana, Central America, the Gulf of Mexico, but also Côte d’Ivoire, Benin and Togo. As a result of their decomposition, gases harmful to health (hydrogen sulphide, ammonia) are released and they suffocate biodiversity, but also ecologically and economically.

Power generation was affected

The reasons for their proliferation are constantly being studied. An increase in agricultural activity due to fertilizers in the water, the supply of nutrient salts associated with Amazon deforestation, changes in currents, fogging of the Sahara or global warming are the most mentioned.

President Luis Abinader’s government announced three years ago $12 million in funding — six from the state and six from the private sector — to fight sarcasm, but the plan has been shelved.

Tenders for a containment project, which would include land and water reclamation and construction of seawalls, ranged from $25 million to $30 million.

These are preventive measures that do not provide a definitive solution, however, Tourism Minister David Collado told reporters.

Sargassum also disrupts power generation in the Dominican Republic, where at least 1,200 megawatts are generated in thermal power plants using seawater.

Energy Minister Antonio Almonte underlined that some power plants are forced to stop working or reduce production because of the risk of internal damage due to sarcasm infiltration.

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Especially during the months when these pelagic brown algae that float on the surface of the sea are abundant, the warm season for coolers coincides with the peak of energy demand.

The government has donated a million dollars to universities in the hope that scientists will find potential uses for sarcasm in fields such as biofuels, fertilizers, cosmetics, animal feed, dyes, concrete blocks or thermo panels.

President of Hotel Association Mr. Livre believes that from being a “burden”, Sarcasm will also become something “worth”.