Last updated: 07:00 PM ET, Mon August 10 2015

Foul-Smelling Seaweed Threatens Caribbean Beaches, Tourism

Destination & Tourism | Patrick Clarke | August 10, 2015

Foul-Smelling Seaweed Threatens Caribbean Beaches, Tourism

Few regions in the world are as dependent on tourism as the Caribbean. Therefore, it comes as little surprise that the growing prevalence of foul-smelling seaweed in the region has officials concerned. 

The Associated Press reported the sargassum has blown up of late, threatening popular beaches throughout the Caribbean and turning some tourists off to the region just months ahead of peak tourism season. Lawmakers in Tobago have even gone so far to deem the seaweed invasion a "natural disaster" in wake of some tourists canceling trips to the area, per the AP.

"This has been the worst year we've seen so far," said Tobago Hotel and Tourism Association chairman Christopher James via the AP. "We really need to have a regional effort on this because this unsightly seaweed could end up affecting the image of the Caribbean."

Meanwhile, Mexican officials have stated plans to spend more than $9 million on tests and cleanup efforts near various beach resorts. The country will hire as many as 4,600 workers to remove the sargassum, while also running tests to determine whether the marine algae can be contained prior to reaching the shore.

While scientists aren't exactly sure what's causing the increased sargassum presence in the Caribbean, tourism officials across the region aren't willing to wait to find out. The AP reported some officials have called for an emergency meeting of the more than a dozen nations that comprise the Caribbean community. 

Nonetheless, attempts to remove the seaweed could create additional headaches. 

Sargasso Sea Commission program officer Faith Bulger told the AP that "if removal of seaweed involves large machinery, that will also obviously cause impacts to the beaches and the ecosystems there."

With plenty at stake for Caribbean nations banking on another successful high tourism season, efforts to do away with the smelly seaweed are likely to ramp up in coming months. 

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