My deck drops onto a beach in Handsome Bay, Virgin Gorda, BVI. Whilst many of the North shore beaches are unaffected, some leeward beaches like ours are now feeling the full effect of the Sargassum bloom taking over the Caribbean. It started as a nuisance, some 18 months ago, and has now reached epic proportions. Recently we’ve seen drifts and piles up to 6ft deep along the shoreline.
Walking the dog before work last week, I stumbled across a lone, large (2ft) puffer fish, fully expanded, and washed up onshore. Thinking it odd, I carried on, and found one or two other dead fish (the odd one might be normal).
The following morning, I found around 20 dead fish within the first 10 yards – what followed along the next 200 yards was devastating – 1000s of dead marine animals washed up. It seems the recent low wind and swell had allowed build up of the Hydrogen Sulphide released by the decaying Sargassum, along with exacerbating the oxygen depleting effects of its presence (it shadows out marine plants underneath, and microorganisms within the floating mass also consume a lot more O2.
This last month or so the Caribbean has felt this in full force – lets hope the world can start taking notice, as ultimately this is an effect of global warming, the slowing of the Gulf Stream, increased nitrate run off into the Atlantic, and a bunch of other cumulative factors suggesting we really are at tipping point here.
Note the range of dead wildlife here – I found everything from slipper lobsters to a 7ft
bull tiger shark and a moray eel.
Most worrying of the side effects is the levels of Hydrogen Sulphide gas, which a lot of local residents including myself are blaming for headaches and irritated eyes currently… levels are high enough that all chromed metal fittings and any silverware left out has turned black as well. As a testing kit is $5k, we have now way of knowing the true levels, and it sems the government has done nothing to check for us, despite requests.