Beachgoers reported an influx of sargassum seaweed this weekend at a number of beaches and coastal areas on the south side of Grand Cayman and in parts of West Bay.

Identifiable by its distinctive smell and berrylike, gas-filled bladders, sargassum weed has caused problems for beachfront residents and businesses in previous years. Last year, around June, Seven Mile Beach was lined with the seaweed.

Passengers flying into and out of Cayman this weekend reported seeing “blankets” of the seaweed floating out at sea.

While not an unusual event, the sighting and reporting of the seaweed has increased substantially in recent years. Due to warming ocean temperatures in the Atlantic, there has been a significant increase in the amount of sargassum seaweed floating across the ocean. Strong currents and high winds push the sargassum across the Caribbean and onto beaches in the region.

Sargassum is an algae that floats in the ocean, typically after becoming dislodged from seabeds or coral. The Sargasso Sea in the Atlantic Ocean gets its name from the sargassum that grows there in abundance.

Although sargassum can be unsightly and malodorous once it begins to decay, it is often easier to remove it once it “dries out” after a few days, as it becomes lighter.

The Department of Environment has, in the past, urged residents and businesses not to use heavy equipment to remove the seaweed due to the damage that can be caused to the beach and potentially to turtle nests during nesting seasons by doing so.

Sargassum seaweed lines the beach by the Red Bay dock in South Sound Sunday. – Photo: Taneos Ramsay