Sargassum has been popping up along the coastline of beaches in the Caribbean and North and South America in greater density over the past few years. It is a brown seaweed that is quite strong in texture, and indeed odour. It is a free-floating seaweed or marine algae that reproduces vegetatively, i.e. it does not ‘mate’, but reproduces of and from itself independently.
It is not toxic or harmful in any known way. Its occurrence is also not particularly seasonal, as it seems the Sargassum does its own thing and pitches up on beaches in mass array ever so often without warning. What is unusual is the amount that we Caribbean Islanders have been having in the last few years.
Hoteliers and government agencies were afraid of its potential to affect the Tourist Industry as not many people want to wade through algae, unique or not, to reach the sea. What they wanted to know was, how to get rid of it? After various tries, it appears they have found a best way of clearing it using nets out to sea, and rakes and bags on the beach.
Fortunately, there seems to be powerful ecological benefits that may accrue in the long-term, while in the short-term some adventurous entrepreneurs have tried to reap financial benefits. The Sargassum weed has been effective as mulch, fertilizer, and organic feed. I personally would recommend trying to brew it.
It does smell stinky when dried, but I wager that in that state it might be a good fossil fuel. Barbadians have been drinking sea-moss drinks for years, so I have no doubt this one has been bottled and drunk since turning up en masse on a regular basis.
Where does it come from? The Sargasso sea in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean, a sea with no coast! This means it has no land barrier, but it is defined by the affecting ocean currents. The Sargassum weed is spread over this area providing a habitat for birds, and sea creatures such as turtles and eels.
It is natural and occurring naturally so we should not fear, but appreciate and accept that Nature cannot be tamed.