Already threatened by the early return of toxic “red tide” algal blooms to its coastline, Florida is bracing for another unwelcome visitor: sargassum. A well-known annoyance for beachgoers in the Sunshine State, the so-called Atlantic sargassum belt is massive this year—more than 5,000-miles long and weighing an estimated 10 million tons.
While the seaweed is a vital habitat for marine life in the open ocean, when it hits beaches across Florida this summer, it will quickly begin breaking down and emitting unpleasant toxins like hydrogen sulfide—which at best smells like rotten eggs, but can also cause eye irritation, headaches, and upset stomachs. Sargassum can also create havoc for nearshore environments and their inhabitants, including smothering sea turtle nests on the beach.
Scientists are still trying to work out what is driving the sargassum growth, which seems to increase with each passing year. Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula and various Caribbean islands are also affected, with the Mexican Navy resorting to fishing our the sargassum before it reaches beaches.
Read more here.
Sargassum fish spend their entire lives floating among sargassum algae
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