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The Caribbean tourism trade is concerned that an increase in foul-smelling seaweed washing up on beaches could impact visitor numbers to the area in the long term.
Authorities across the region are providing emergency funding to clean up huge piles of the decaying seaweed, which authorities on Tobago are describing as a “natural disaster”, the Guardian reported.
Mats of sargassum – which attract biting sand fleas and smell like rotten eggs – are reportedly covering larger and larger areas, from Mexico’s Caribbean resorts in the west to Barbados in the east and the Dominican Republic in the north.
With the region’s peak tourism period set to begin in a few months, some officials are calling for an emergency meeting of the Caribbean Community, concerned the occurrence could become a serious issue for tourism.
Christopher James, chairman of the Tobago Hotel and Tourism Association, said: “This has been the worst year we’ve seen.
“We need to have a regional effort because this unsightly seaweed could end up affecting the image of the Caribbean.” Guest houses along Tobago's east and west coasts have reportedly been receiving cancellations as a result of the seaweed.
Theories about what is causing the seaweed increase include the heightening of ocean temperatures and changes in the currents due to climate change. Some researchers believe it is due to pollutants washing into the water.
Mexican authorities will spend about $9.1m and hire 4,600 workers to clean up seaweed mounds, with part of the money used to determine whether the sargassum can be collected before it reaches the shore.
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