Barbados Exploring Initiatives To Deal With Sargassum

(CMC) – Barbados will become the first Caribbean country to benefit from deep-sea research that could bring solutions to sargassum inundation challenges by sinking the seaweed to the bottom of the ocean floor.

The island is bracing for another influx of sargassum from as early as January 1 or February next year.

Scientists from the United Kingdom’s National Oceanography Centre (NOC), in collaboration with Seafields Integrated Environment Solutions, and the Cave Hill campus of The University of the West Indies (UWI), have embarked on a project to understand the potential effects of using seaweed to store carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

The project is co-funded by the UK Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office and is valued at GBP100,000.

Speaking during a press conference onboard the research vessel, RSS James Cook, director of the Coastal Zone Management Unit (CZMU), Dr Leo Brewster, described the work as being “transformative for the island.”

“This project, in its own self, charts a new way forward globally, and it sets Barbados as being an island state that can actually look at using its strategic location within the ocean as a prototype testing centre for different avenues of marine research. This is something that has not been done before in Barbados,” he said.

He noted that the CZMU and the research section of the Marine Spatial Planning teams worked over the last year to find baseline data, background information, and anything that could speak to the island’s ocean, especially in the deeper waters.

Brewster said that the project enhanced that research and presented an opportunity for Bajans to learn more about deep-sea research.

He also urged representatives from UWI to form the necessary linkages to explore similar avenues in the future.

“The work that has been done by the James Cook research vessel has been something that will open our eyes to opportunities within the blue economy structure. It will open avenues for us as to how we can develop our marine spatial plan…The significance of that is that new information can help guide us to better appreciate the resources that we have and learn more about what is on the ocean floor. That has significance for us,” Brewster said.

Acting Minister of the Environment and National Beautification, Green and Blue Economy, Corey Lane also commended work being done under the project, describing it as being “extremely important”.

“It is how do we treat to the sargassum; how do we treat to removing Co2. It is all about compacting it, testing it, and putting it into areas of the ocean that have never been explored before. This is extremely scientific and is pioneering work,” he said, adding that it was a major move for Barbados and the Caribbean, with the potential of having a global reach, if successful,” Lane said.

“We will analyse the findings which will dictate if we can scale it up, the results and technology, if that can be exported to the world. I do believe that some findings and some things we gather from this type of project could be of value to us financially,” he added.