Seaweed invasion continues

The sargassum seaweed invasion of Seven Mile Beach is likely to be over by Wednesday when winds are predicted to shift and blow the unsightly organic material away, according to the Department of Environment. 

But as large mats of sargassum seaweed continued to wash ashore along Seven Mile Beach over the weekend, clean-up crews fought to keep up with the influx. 

A 12-man crew with the Recreation, Parks and Cemeteries Unit of the Public Works Department spent several hours Friday morning removing seaweed from Public Beach by hand. The crew attempted to rake in some of the seaweed in the water, to catch it before the tide brought it ashore later in the day. 

Unfortunately, the seaweed kept coming, and by mid-morning the crew’s clean beach was dotted with brown spots. 

“That’s Mother Nature,” crew supervisor Kent Rankin said. “You can’t control that, but what we can do is clean it the best we can.” 

The crew was out again on Monday, cleaning by hand, and Mr. Rankin said the amount of seaweed was “terrible.” He said the crews will continue to clean the beach every morning by hand as long as needed. 

A beach cleaning machine that the unit usually uses is out of service, as some parts required to fix the machine have to be ordered from overseas, according to Recreation, Parks and Cemeteries Acting General Manager Mark Bothwell. 

Mr. Bothwell said that once the seaweed is removed, it is used to fill holes in swampland and areas of Crown property. Some is also given to farmers who use it for fertilizer, and some goes to the landfill. 

Joseph Caputo, owner of a beach cleaning company called The Beach Cleaner, said he has been inundated with calls since the sargassum invasion began last week, as hotel and condominium managers were desperate to get their properties clean. 

“Tourists pay for sea, sand and sun,” Mr. Caputo said. “That’s what they come here for, they don’t come here to sit on a stinky beach.” 

The cleaning process Mr. Caputo employs involves a special machine that sifts sand out of the seaweed. It can take up to a whole day to clean the beach area of just one property. 

Mr. Caputo works with the Department of Environment to ensure that turtle nests are avoided during cleaning. 

He advises property owners to get rid of the material as quickly as possible, but also to watch the weather when planning a beach cleanup. 

“If a big storm comes in, nobody’s going to be able to help until it’s over,” he said. 

The Department of Environment was advising some property owners Monday to hold off on removing the seaweed until it is taken away naturally when the wind shifts. 

“We have been working with property owners throughout the weekend and this morning, and now a lot of property owners are leaving it where it is and they’re raking paths to the water,” Wendy Williams, senior environmental assessment officer, said. 

According to a bulletin released by the Department of Environment last week, the ideal method for dealing with the seaweed is to leave it where it is, since removal can sometimes be detrimental to the environment and harmful to turtle nests. 

“The problem is when people remove the seaweed, they accidentally take sand with it,” said Ms. Williams. “So when you remove the seaweed, it has a destabilizing effect on the beach.” 

Removing the seaweed also removes the barrier that keeps rough waves from coming up to the shoreline and eroding it, Ms. Williams said. 

Property owners wishing to bring in heavy equipment to clean their beaches must first receive approval from the Department of Environment. 

“Tourist properties don’t want this on their beach, and I understand why,” Ms. Williams said. “We’re not stopping anybody, we’re just making sure that it doesn’t remove turtle nests.” 

Ms. Williams said if property owners wish to use excavators to clear the seaweed, it is best to let the seaweed dry first, so that when it is lifted up, the sand falls out. 

Seaweed will continue to wash ashore until the end of the day Tuesday, according to Ms. Williams, but there should be no more mats of sargassum washing onto Seven Mile Beach for now. 

A government beach clean-up crew removed huge mats of seaweed Friday morning, but more was quickly washed ashore. - Photo: Kelsey Jukam
A government beach clean-up crew removed huge mats of seaweed Friday morning, but more was quickly washed ashore. – Photo: Kelsey Jukam


  1. I know that the seaweed is good for fertilizer, but it sounds like we have more than we need. I wonder if we made some thing from 10 ft lengths of steel pipes with say plastic gallon bottles tied to pipe to be able to keep the pipe afloat, and two large ropes tied to the ends of the pipes and the 2 other ends tied onto the boat and dragged it out beyond the drop off, then let go of one end from the boat and dragged it for a while to clear it, or you could clear it by hand.

  2. To you people who don’t understand my first comment, that is just a idea to help clean up the beach safely and not damage any potential turtle nest, or remove the sand from the beach.

  3. Have we asked other Caribbean Islands in the area how they are dealing with this problem? Are we trying to invent the wheel again? Please do not discard this valuable material in the dump. It needs to be composted and used as fertilizer once it is ready.

  4. Am I the only person that doesn’t understand why we are meddling with mother nature?
    Sure there are pros and cons of this overgrowth/ distribution of Sargassum environmentally.. but nature gives what nature needs.

  5. Wonder how long the parts for the beach cleaning machine has been on order. Probably haven’t ordered them yet. While the beach cleaning crew is at it, how about cleaning garbage and trash from many of the beaches on Cayman. They are disgusting and we should not allow tourists to have to wade through the detritus.

  6. @Lukishi Brown
    This is the normal chain on events here. First there is a problem, then someone starts looking for the equipment designed to remediate that problem, then they find out it is out of order, then they order the parts overseas. Then everybody is waiting for it to arrive.
    Remember when the Dump was burning and all equipment was out of order or off island? Or when they were installing crosswalks on WB and had to wait for months for some parts? Or the Doppler weather radar down and awaiting part from Germany?