I am providing the below information that we received from our Resilient Environment Department (RED) Deputy Director, Dr. Jennifer Jurado regarding the large mass of seaweed. As we all know this will be an issue that the Florida coastal cities will be monitoring and dealing with its arrival.
Background: Sargassum is a brown macroalgae (seaweed) that is a natural part of the marine ecosystem. Sargassum has long formed large blooms in the Atlantic Ocean. In Broward County, generally between the months of March through October, Sargassum caught in the Gulf stream is pushed in by prevailing winds and makes its way to our beaches. Sargassum accumulation along our beaches is a part of the beach ecosystem, providing a food source for shorebirds while trapping sand, fortifying our dunes and beaches, and increasing the resilience of our shoreline.
Concern: This year’s bloom could be the largest ever, spanning more than 5,000 miles from the shores of Africa to the Gulf of Mexico. Current satellite imagery predicts above average Sargassum accumulation on Florida beaches this season. It is difficult to predict when and where these accumulations will occur due to local changes in currents and winds, but material will likely become entrained by the Gulf loop and Gulf stream, bringing larger volumes to Broward and neighboring counties.
Coordination: In preparation for this potential, the Resilient Environment Department (RED) is coordinating a regional stakeholder group that includes representatives from Monroe through Martin counties to exchange information and discuss potential management strategies. This group is being convened to facilitate communications and share updates and guidance to aid management strategies throughout the southeast region and in collaboration with local communities. This initial coordination is primarily in conjunction with our neighboring counties and agency partners. Frequency and nature of engagement will likely evolve in response to conditions. RED intends to engage concurrently with the county’s coastal municipalities to ensure everyone is kept informed over the next several months.
Note: While Broward County’s Resilient Environment Department (RED) maintains shoreline protection and coastal resource programs, the County does not provide mechanical beach maintenance, an activity managed by the coastal cities. Best practices recommend that Sargassum be left in place to the benefit of the natural ecosystem and is typically removed by natural processes (i.e., tidal cycles). However, multiple coastal municipalities and private entities within the County maintain special permits issued by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) that allow for mechanical raking of the beach. Special permit conditions specify where and when mechanical beach raking is allowed. Methods of removal range from composting, burial, and/or disposal of the seaweed.
Angela Delaney, Marine Resources Manager, will be serving as the County’s liaison for this effort ([email protected] or 519-1207).