Sargassum: an environmental scourge with dramatic consequences affecting the entire Caribbean.

Sargassum: an environmental scourge with dramatic consequences affecting the entire Caribbean.

Jun 21, 2022

Filet Nova

"Sargassum are floating algae drifting over thousands of kilometers that end up stranding mainly on the coasts of the Caribbean and Mexico. These gigantic strandings create many disorders:

While environmental issues are now at the heart of concerns, the collection of Sargassum seaweed before it washes up on the beaches is becoming an ecological and economic necessity of the first order.

Attempts to combat this pollution phenomenon have been undertaken. Non-compliant or unsuitable booms were installed, they quickly broke up, the drifting debris washed up on the coasts and thus contributed to additional pollution.
Artisanal and inefficient collection methods have also been implemented and have paradoxically been for a long time an obstacle to the release of this depollution sector to finally give way to more efficient means.

Plages envahies par des échouages de Sargasses

Currently, local actors, faced with the seriousness of the situation and aware of their interest in protecting the ecological heritage of their regions, are now ready to open up to other proposals.

AlgeaNova, a specialist in the design of marine devices, is now able to offer a complete depollution offer to contain sargassum at sea, harvest it and recover it.

Many over-pollutions linked to the fight against Sargassum are induced by unsuitable barrier projects: inventory.

"Since 2010, the development of Sargassum has been exponential due to agricultural pollution in the Amazon basin and a rise in temperature due to global warming. The currents cause huge shoals of this floating brown algae to drift which sometimes extend over several tens of hectares towards the Caribbean islands and the coasts of the Gulf of Mexico.These gigantic strandings of Sargassum constitute an economic and environmental scourge.

The beaches are overrun and become impassable. Sargassum poses a real health problem, it is allergenic and therefore makes swimming impossible. After stranding, it ferments and releases a pestilential smell.

The most frequently used solution is the cleaning of beaches using bulldozers. Tons of dirty sand mixed with decomposing algae are picked up, this process causes irreparable erosion of the beaches. The incessant comings and goings of public works machinery and noise pollution make the beaches unfrequentable for a large part of the day.

This collected sand-algae mixture is then piled up in spaces requisitioned for this purpose and continues to rot in the open air. For miles around, residents are bothered by this smell, children suffer from respiratory problems due to toxic fumes.

The companies offering this beach cleaning service do not provide a solution. This counterproductive and anti-ecological process only has the effect of ravaging the beaches and displacing the pollution while trying to hide it.

Barrière antipollution aux hydrocarbures

Our group, of which AlgeaNova is a part, specializes in floating dams. We have decades of experience in the fields of protection against hydrocarbons, underwater protection of ports and marinas to preserve the bottom during underwater work, protection of beaches against jellyfish with our patented floating barriers, as well as many more specific projects for occasional protection.

For more than 2 years, our group has invested nearly one million euros in research and development in order to find an appropriate response to the problem of Sargassum.

Numerous tests of inappropriate barriers, designed by companies not specialized in this field, have been carried out without success.

  • Visual pollution due to design and poor choice of materials.
  • Structural weakness due to rigidity, causing them to break.
  • The use of systems designed for point protection against hydrocarbons. Their temporary anchoring devices for very limited operations are not weatherproof and rarely last more than a month or two.
  • The installation of a barrier of this type, 7 km long without including the anchors, involves enormous storage resources in terms of floor space, dozens of transport trucks and very significant logistical resources.
  • For maintenance, it takes several boats every day as well as around twenty employees to carry out permanent repairs, replace damaged sections and store them on land, without considering a solution to recycle them in any way. 
  • For the cleaning of these dams in order to maintain them in good condition, a significant amount of manpower and boats are necessary to ultimately obtain a poor result.
  • The rigid boom also presents the risk of injuring swimmers or causing human and material damage if a pleasure boat hits them. 

"The Caribbean zone is especially exposed to the risk of hurricanes. During the hurricane season, the ideal is to dismantle the installations and store them safely, but all the existing barriers cannot be dismantled. The human and technical resources to be implemented dismantling and the necessary storage areas are too large.At the end of the hurricane season, most of these dams that have remained in the water are destroyed and the costs of repairs are very high.

Concrete and quick solutions exist and allow the almost total elimination of Sargassum.

At first, our group refused to market its barriers because we considered them unfinished. We preferred to wait and undertake a series of studies to analyze all the market barriers in order to determine the negative points of the systems that are unsuitable for responding to the Sargassum problem. After several months of research, our engineers drew the first conclusions and we started making prototypes.

After more than a year of research and more than a dozen prototypes installed at sea to study the behavior of barriers against the elements and their ability to effectively retain algae, we have decided to install in Punta Cana in partnership with Punta Cana Group a 200m barrier.

Barriers protecting part of the coastline in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.

Our anchors are specially designed and adapted to the location and conditions of installation. We apply very high safety coefficients, our barriers are anchored with at least 3 times more anchors than our competitors. To be competitive, most companies in this market minimize their supply and thus run the risk of total loss.

Our choice is determined by the results of the studies and tests carried out at sea. The multiplication of our anchorages penalizes our prices, but we are convinced of this necessity in order to be able to guarantee the quality of our installations.