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Sargassum Seaweed and Surfside’s Shoreline

Oct 19, 2023

Have you come across an influx of sargassum seaweed while cruising the beach with your family in recent weeks? The annual sargassum season runs from March through October. It's an essential part of the South Florida ecosystem and this year, it is expected to be heavier than usual due to a larger offshore bloom.

“Sargassum provides habitat and food for many invertebrates, which gives foraging to migratory birds crucial to South Florida's coastal ecosystem,” Lowell Andrew Iporac tells the Surfside Gazette. Iporac is Ph.D candidate of FIU’s Marine Macroalgae Research Department of Biology. His research focuses on sargassum seaweed and its impact on Miami's shoreline stability. “Our subtropical climate makes wonderful grounds for wildlife that thrives in sargassum-prone natural areas and welcomes an array of bird species,” he adds.

Sargassum is a floating, marine brown algae. It grows in the Atlantic Ocean forming during high temperatures and it’s not harmful to humans. It floats from the waters near the west coast of Africa to the Gulf of Mexico and washes up on the Caribbean and Florida coastlines.

This year, recent satellite images show large seaweed patches just south of islands in the northern Caribbean. Experts anticipate that this sargassum belt will move farther into the Caribbean over the coming months and begin to wash up more frequently along South Florida coastlines throughout the spring, peaking in the summer months.

Although it’s a valuable resource for native wildlife such as sea turtles and seagulls, it can be a minor inconvenience for beachgoers.

Surfside, luckily, is not as highly impacted by sargassum blooms as neighboring towns. However, we are taking the necessary steps to ensure it does not interfere with community beach time and tourism as our clean waters are a big draw for visitors and residents alike.

Due to its sensitive nature, sargassum management is not handled at the municipal level. Miami-Dade County tractors operate on a daily basis to cut and turn the seaweed everyday in efforts to reduce its presence in the shoreline.

The Town also holds several beach clean-ups throughout the year that focus on plastic and man-made litter, as trash separation from the seaweed helps speed-up its natural decomposition. Join us for our next event the Plastic Fishing Festival & Earth Day resource day on April 22.

We hope understanding sargassum seaweed’s vitality to our ecosystem shines a new light if you come across some blooms while you enjoy a family beach day.

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