Seaweed splashes onto the shore of Florida

Liberty Stuart, News writer

Spanning nearly twice the width of the United States of America, a blob of seaweed, called The Great Atlantic Sargassum Belt, is headed towards Florida. Weighing over ten million tons, the seaweed is currently stretching all the way from West Africa to the Gulf of Mexico. 

While the sargassum belt is not a new thing, what raises concerns this year is the size of the mass. The belt is already over 5,000 miles (about twice the width of the United States) wide, setting a record. According to Brian Lapointe, a researcher at Florida Atlantic University’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, this is the largest mass has been since monitoring of it began in 2011. It has doubled in size between December and January.   

Sargassum is a brown type of seaweed that floats throughout the ocean in large masses without ever attaching to the ocean floor.  

According to the NOAA, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, “this floating habitat can provide food, refuge, and breeding grounds for an array of animals such as fishes, sea turtles, marine birds, crabs, shrimp, and more.” 

While sargassum is beneficial to aquatic life, once it reaches beaches, it becomes harmful. Out of the water, it takes around two days to rot and then releases hydrogen sulfide. This gas smells like rotten eggs and causes respiratory problems. 

This causes issues for the local economies, since it limits tourism, cuts off marinas and decreases fishing yields.  

According to NPR, around 200 tons of seaweed has already washed up along the Yucatán Peninsula and is expected to show up on Florida beaches around July.