TEXAS - Galveston Island has been dealing with an onslaught of seaweed that is piled up on beaches leaving mounds of Sargassum several feet high. Every morning before dawn, about three dozen Park Board employees are at work removing the seaweed to make sure that arriving tourists are not blocked from the surf by a wall of seaweed.
Workers are using front-end loaders and beach cleaning machines, like the Barber Surf Rakes, to remove the weed from the beach. The massive accumulations are then being trucked and carted off to growing piles of seaweed at the back of the beaches.
Local businesses say that the seaweed isn’t impacting tourism, but nevertheless, people are turned off when hit with the unmistakable, pungent odor of the Sargassum piles. It’s actually not the seaweed, but the dead and decaying small fish and other organisms within the seaweed that produces the rank smell.
The Sargassum seaweed is an algae that grows in the Sargasso Sea and is arriving on these beaches after drifting for thousands of miles. Currents return much of the seaweed to the Sargasso Sea, but some drifts into the nutrient-filled waters off the Texas Coast where it thrives and grows.
This problem isn't unique to Galveston. It is a nuisance in Port Aransas, South Padre, Corpus Christi and other Texas coastal cities. Robert Webster, marine science research assistant at Texas A&M University at Galveston, said this year is the biggest onslaught of seaweed he has seen since beginning research in 2003. Webster developed the Sargassum Early Advisory System, which uses satellites to warn Galveston officials of the coming seaweed. This video taken by a drone really shows the enormity of the Sargassum on Surfside Beach, Galveston.
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