NiCE crew provides sargassum relief on Grand Cayman beaches

A worker removes sargassum from the beach during the NiCE campaign in August. - Photo: Stephen Clarke

Six workers with the National Community Enhancement Project, known as NiCE, cleaned Cayman’s beaches of invasive seaweed from South Sound to North Side this month.

The coordinated sargassum control effort, from 5 to 16 Aug., explored new methods of collecting the weed using a skid steer, backhoe and BeachTech Marina.

“In instances where it was difficult to separate the seaweed from the sand, the sargassum was taken to a government location to be dried, sieved and the sand transported back to the beaches by the Recreation, Parks and Cemeteries Unit,” according to a Ministry of Commerce, Planning & Infrastructure news release.

The ministry is leading a multi-agency task force to tackle the sargassum issue, which is now expected to invade Caribbean beaches for the foreseeable future.

Several issues arise when cleaning large amounts of sargassum from the shore with heavy machinery, including erosion and possible damage to turtle nests.

“Cleaning the sargassum manually is not sustainable. This approach worked well with the combination of manual labour and machinery,” said Minister Joey Hew in a news release.

“We have received positive feedback from members of the communities who noted the stark difference they have seen in the clean-up of our beaches.”

Areas cleaned during the August initiative included the South Sound boat ramp and boardwalk areas, the Frank Sound boat ramp, Coe Wood Beach in Bodden Town, Cayman Kai Public Beach in North Side and Colliers Beach in East End.

Much of the cleared sargassum was taken to the landfill. Some is being tested by the Department of Agriculture for use as fertiliser, according to officials.