Seaweed blankets Seven Mile Beach

Seaweed on SMB

The typically pristine shoreline along Seven Mile Beach has been covered in a massive amount of unsightly sargassum seaweed since Wednesday morning.

Clean-up operations were stalled Thursday as more seaweed was expected to wash ashore later in the day.

The Recreation, Parks and Cemeteries Unit of the Public Works Department has the job of removing the seaweed from public beaches, but the unit was unable to work on removing the seaweed on Thursday because the tractor that is used in such operations is in a shop for mechanical work.

“We will have to wait until tomorrow,” Recreation, Parks and Cemeteries Acting General Manager Mark Bothwell said, adding that the unit can sometimes clean up the seaweed by hand, but the amount of seaweed along Seven Mile Beach is too great for hand removal.

“Our crews have been tackling this issue for months now in the other districts,” Mr. Bothwell said. “As soon as it’s collected, there’s more in the water washing back onto beach, so it’s a never-ending process. Hopefully the wind and currents will take most of it back out to sea.”

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According to Mr. Bothwell, hotels and condominiums are responsible for cleaning the seaweed in front of those properties.

Small piles of raked seaweed could be spotted in front of some hotels Thursday, but many hotels were waiting to begin their clean-up operations as more seaweed was expected to come in with the tide.

“We do have plans to clean it up,” said Danielle Sanjenko, water sports concierge at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman.

A huge mass of seaweed was floating in the water in front of the hotel, but Ms. Sanjenko said that once the next wave of seaweed comes in, the hotel will bring in a machine to clear it.

Comfort Suites staff raked some of the seaweed, but that hotel was also waiting to bring in a machine until the next wave washes ashore. Thomas Mason, general manager of the hotel, said they apologize to guests, stressing that it is an unusual occurrence, and they are willing to take guests to other areas of the island unaffected by the seaweed.

“It’s always disappointing,” Mr. Mason said. “But when we’re dealing with nature and ecosystems, it’s something that’s really beyond control.”

Few tourists could be found on Seven Mile Beach on Thursday, and fewer still could be found in the water, which was not only covered in the seaweed, but also unusually choppy.

Sue Clyma, visiting from Canada, said she saw the seaweed before it hit the shoreline Wednesday morning.

“It went as far as the eye can see,” Ms. Clyma said.

She said the seaweed was a “solid line” at least a couple miles long.

“I’ve heard of these floating masses and I was hoping not to see it,” Ms. Clyma said. “We hope it’s just a one-off thing.”

Glenn Salem, his wife Kathleen, and friends were staying at the Villas of the Galleon on Seven Mile Beach. He joked that they should be reimbursed the cost of their accommodations because of the poor quality of the water.

“We’ve been coming to Cayman since 1982 and have never seen anything like this,” he said.

Mr. Salem said it would not deter them from coming back to Cayman, but it might make their friends, first-time visitors who were promised calm and clean water, to think twice before booking a trip here again.

The Cayman Islands Department of Tourism issued a statement Thursday about the Seven Mile Beach seaweed.

“CIDOT is continuing to monitor the situation and will work with the relevant government departments responsible for the maintenance of beach quality and our tourism partners to ensure that, despite this unwelcomed intrusion, our guests are receiving the consistent Caymankind visitor experience our destination is known for offering,” the statement said, adding that the event is not isolated to the Cayman Islands.

“In recent years it has been appearing more frequently in the Caribbean Sea and Atlantic Ocean,” the statement said.

Large clumps of sargassum have affected shorelines from Mexico to Barbados. In August, Trinidad declared the inundation of the seaweed an emergency situation and natural disaster.

Cayman’s Department of Environment also issued a statement about the influx of seaweed, which has been affecting other parts of the island, predominately the eastern districts and North Side, throughout the year to varying degrees.

“It is believed that the recent influxes are related to massive sargassum blooms occurring in particular areas of the Atlantic … where nutrients are available and temperatures are high,” the statement said. “The sargassum consolidates into large mats and is transported by ocean currents towards and throughout the Caribbean.”

High winds, caused by a cold front off the East Coast of the United States, are likely responsible for bringing the seaweed onto Seven Mile Beach, according to Cayman Islands Weather Service meteorologist Gilbert Miller.

The Department of Environment said hand-raking is the preferred method for seaweed removal, and that removal by mechanical means cannot be undertaken without consultation with the department and a letter of approval.

“Given that we are still in the active turtle nesting and hatching season, especially along Seven Mile Beach which has the highest density of nests, it is critical that no machinery is taken onto the beach without DoE approval,” the department pointed out in a statement.

According to the statement, the current influx is likely to affect the west coast of Grand Cayman until the middle of next week, after which winds are forecast to shift.

Seaweed on 7mile beach 1-4

Sargassum seaweed covers the shoreline in George Town on Thursday. – Photos: Taneos Ramsay

Seaweed on 7mile beach 1-2

The entire shoreline along Seven Mile Beach was lined with sargassum seaweed Thursday morning. The influx of seaweed is expected to affect Cayman’s west coast until next week.
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  1. I have never see seaweed like this on seven mile beach in 50 years. I wonder what is happening? I know that the winds and currents has caused it. This seaweed should not be put back in the water along seven mile beach, because the next northwester there will be a bigger mess to clean up, when that seaweed is put back in the water it floats for awhile then sinks to the bottom. I think that this should be seen by the premier to let him see how currents and winds work, for him to say that the dredging in George harbor would not cause any problems for the seven mile beach or the environment.

  2. This is the largest amount of sea-weed I have seen for many years, and if is left to dry on the beaches, it will blacken the sand and become a real big problem.
    We are experiencing the same thing in Bodden Town public beach. A few years ago we were able to keep our beach cleaned quickly because the young men and women of the town who did not have a job were given temporary jobs for a couple weeks to have it cleaned, and at the same time making a few dollars.
    Having the machine that cleans the beach in the shop is a set back; and of course the seven mile public beach and George Town frontline beach will be attended to first.
    So can I request that the young men and women of Bodden Town be given this opportunity to do their handy work again for a couple weeks to clean our public beach. Also the seaweed when washed properly grounded up and mixed with perlite is the best for plant life.

  3. Has anyone ever thought of letting the prisoners work for their "Keep”…they are fed and given care while awaiting sentencing (food and housing and necessary medical care) Under supervision, they can clean up the seaweed and the trash that is behind the wall across from the Craft Market…over the years the trash along West Bay Road has become increasingly, why pay someone when you already have "help" that can pay back a part of their debt to society…

  4. @Ron I have been complaining about the tenders and lost money and destruction of the reefs in town for a long, long time. Remember they not only have tenders, they also tell where ships should anchor. In "different winds and currents". Remember that reef that they just rebuilt? Holland America ship was told to anchor when a North West wind was predicted to come in . They spun around in the wind and banged into Soto’s Reef Central. NOT ONE WORD WAS SPOKEN . Its amazing how many times I have spoke about the issues of the cruise lines.
    But no Ron no one is paying me . People are finally seeing what I have been complaining about for years. Plus environmentalists are selective . Remember they had wanted to build a dock in East End? They said no. Remember Caymanian Master Mariners wanted to build it in Red Bay? They said no.
    Well little did people know that the docks have been in discussion for over 30 years. Each Gov’t had it . This is the first Gov’t with the right mind set to do it.

  5. Mr Terrance I support your thoughts of Using the prisoners to help clean up.
    The mass of seaweed is so great, and it is all over the island but, will the government have faith enough to take the risk which would have to involve at least one dozen prisoners or more.
    On a serious note it has to be cleaned quickly because it will spoil the white sand turning it brown and dirty.
    A further suggestion would be that private owners will definitely have to quickly clean up and government need to do the same on public beaches. Considering, what to do, and leaving it to dry is going to be disaster. This seaweed can be recycled to good manure for plant life.

  6. Dear David, one losing money in his own business venture, is his own fault, I think that it should be the responsibility of the Port captain/port authority that is in charge of the Port that is suppose to tell one where to anchor ship/boat in the Port, not the tender captain. Complaining about the damage to the corals by ship anchor. The answer is not to dredge such a large area in the harbor, I think you have been diving long enough in George town harbor to know how the currents work during weather conditions, i think you are old enough to know what dredging do and causes to the corals / environment . I think that you and me and everyone else should be protecting the environment that we have that so many other places in the world do not have, so that your and my great great grand kids and everyone else can see and enjoy.