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Foul-smelling seaweed chokes tourism hotspots and climate crisis could be to blame

Foul-smelling seaweed chokes tourism hotspots and climate crisis could be to blame
The gas, which smells like rotten eggs, can affect people with breathing problems such as asthma

The climate crisis has caused near-record amounts of stinking seaweed to smother coasts from Puerto Rico to South Florida, killing fish and other wildlife and choking tourism.

More than 24 million tons of sargassum blanketed the Atlantic in June, shattering the all-time record, set in 2018, by 20 per cent, according to the University of South Florida’s Optical Oceanography Lab.

In Mexico, the boom in sargassum poses a “significant threat” to the country’s post-pandemic tourism recovery, analysts from bank BBVA warn.

According to Caribbean news website Loop, fishermen in St Vincent and the Grenadines said the seaweed is damaging their engines and forcing costly repairs.

The concentration of algae is so heavy in parts of the eastern Caribbean that the French island of Guadeloupe issued a health alert in late July. It warned some communities about high levels of hydrogen sulfide gas emanating from the huge rotting clumps of seaweed.

<p>A tractor sweeps a beach lined with seaweed along the Atlantic shore in Frigate Bay, St. Kitts and Nevis</p>

A tractor sweeps a beach lined with seaweed along the Atlantic shore in Frigate Bay, St. Kitts and Nevis

The gas, which smells like rotten eggs, can affect people with breathing problems such as asthma.

Beachgoers have been reporting mounds of seaweed washing up on the shores of South Florida.

Gigi Rodriguez, who was trying to enjoy the sunshine at Dania Beach in  in Broward County, Florida, told NBC Miami: “I’ve never seen it like this. Never.”

“It’s all over the place. We tried to go farther in, but the farther you get, the more seaweed you’re going to get all over,” fellow beach-lover Tanya Suarez added.

Scientists say more research is needed to determine why sargassum levels in the region are so high, but the United Nations’ Caribbean Environment Program said possible factors include a rise in water temperatures as a result of the climate crisis, and nitrogen-laden fertilizer and sewage that nourish the algae.

“This year has been the worst year on record,” said Lisa Krimsky, a university researcher with Florida Sea Grant, a programme aimed at protecting the coast. “It is absolutely devastating for the region.”

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