Mission Sargassum 2019

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Sargassum seaweed: Nightmare of the Caribbean

Since 2011 a scientific mystery drifting silently in the Atlantic has been transformed into a major environmental problem in the Lesser Antilles islands. Huge quantities of sargassum seaweed from the tropical Atlantic (hundreds of km2) are beaching on the coasts of the small islands in the Antilles archipelago, blocking harbours and making some beaches inaccessible.

This seaweed, which floats on the surface of the ocean, has been appearing in the western Atlantic in amounts never recorded before 2011. Thousands of tonnes of the seaweed has arrived on beaches and in bays, where it accumulates and then decomposes releasing hydrogen sulfide, an irritant gas which is extremely harmful to health.

Along the coast, sargassum seaweed may cover several hundred m2 on the surface of the water, suffocating the marine environment and killing many organisms which have little or no mobility. In many cases these heaps of seaweed, which can be more than one metre thick, also prevent adult turtles from laying their eggs on the landward side of the beach, and also stop baby turtles from returning to the sea soon after they hatch.

Stranded seaweed is doing serious damage to the economy of many countries in the Caribbean, with impacts on tourism and fishing, and also on public health.

In the open Atlantic, however, sargassum seaweed represents an amazing ecosystem, supporting closely linked biodiversity and forming the base of a whole food chain extending from seaweed up to large pelagic fish such as tuna.

It is absolutely essential to identify the origin of this phenomenon so that we can predict large-scale strandings of the seaweed. The KBF Canada Foundation, Opérations OSCAR and a scientific partner called Nova Blue have therefore come together to work on a project entitled “Mission Sargassum 2019”. This unique and innovative collaboration is the first large-scale campaign to make it possible to gain a better understanding of this new environmental phenomenon and take steps to prevent it.

Come on board with us now for this scientific adventure.

Predicting large-scale stranding of sargassum seaweed in the Lesser Antilles.

From April to July 2019 an aircraft manned by a team of researchers will overfly areas of the Atlantic ocean near the Lesser Antilles to carry out the first large-scale scientific campaign aimed at improving prediction of large-scale sargassum seaweed stranding event.

They will also collect data in the open sea, with the aim of improving research into the origin of these influxes of sargassum, which are unprecedented in this region.

 

Impact

Our mission will gather fundamental data on the location and extent of the sargassum seaweed. This data will be processed by the scientists and compared with satellite data. The database will be used to refine the drift algorithms which are used to predict stranding events.  The four to five day stranding forecast will allow local inhabitants to develop initiatives to protect themselves from stranding events, while also allowing local authorities to take the necessary action to mobilise resources for cleaning and collection of stranded seaweed.

The results will be published and made available to the public.

Precise and almost daily monitoring of drifting sargassum banks will allow us to improve the accuracy of prediction tools and reduce the uncertainty associated with the impact zone in the Antilles.

 

Partners

Opérations OSCAR is a Canadian non- governmental organisation which is aware of the rapid changes taking place in our climate and affecting biodiversity.  Due to the pace of these changes, scientists are having to push back some increasingly complex boundaries.  Thanks to its fully-equipped research aircraft and its scientific partners, Opérations OSCAR is allowing us to reveal new challenges every day that will help us to understand what tomorrow will be like.

Scientific partner: Nova Blue Environment is an agency that conducts research and provides advice and expertise on the tropical marine environment. Its Managing Director, Jean-Philippe Maréchal DSc PhD, has 15 years of experience in current  environmental issues and is experienced in the use of the relevant scientific and technological tools. A lot of work has been done since 2011 on the problem of sargassum in the equatorial Atlantic.

 

Financial needs

  • Hire of scientific equipment. Supercomputer, multi-spectral camera, polarising camera.
  • Maintenance of the aircraft carrying out the mission over three months.
  • Accommodation for a team of six people for three months
  • Equipment transport logistics

 

How to support this project?

By credit card: At the top right of this page, indicate the amount you wish to donate, and make the donation online by credit card. Simple and fast!

By check: Mail the check to the KBF CANADA Foundation, mention Project F602 –Mission Sargassum’ in the ‘For’ section and send it to: KBF Foundation CANADA, 1 Place Ville Marie, Suite 1670, MONTREAL, QC, H3B 2B6 – CANADA.

By Direct Deposit: Send an email to the KBF CANADA Foundation info@kbfcanada.ca or call +1 514.481.2000.

All donations are eligible for a tax receipt in Canada.

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