By Jai-Leen James, Contributing Reporter
MIAMI BEACH, FLORIDA – The Miami Beach Neighborhood and Community Affairs Committee held a meeting Wednesday, June 19th to discuss possible solutions for the excessive amount of sargassum seaweed that has piled up on the city’s shores.
Sargassum seaweed is found in warm climates and various marine life such as shrimp, crabs, fish and whales use it as a food source or shelter. It’s a natural occurrence, although last year the seaweed appeared in record numbers.
Too much of it can be disparaging as sargassum has an unpleasant smell once it starts to decay. “It’s so bad that a friend of mine was staying at the Edition, and she had to leave the hotel,” Kristen Rosen Gonzalez, a former Miami Beach commissioner who is running for her old seat, said at the meeting.
“She said that the smell, it just permeates the hallways. It’s inside of people’s apartments. I mean, they’re living and breathing the seaweed. And now that I understand the bacterial component, this is as serious a public health crisis as Zika, so maybe we need to get some emergency help and funding.”
Additionally, too much sargassum can make it difficult for nesting sea turtle to arrive on shore and also for hatchlings to reach the ocean. Decomposing sargassum can breed harmful bacteria thus causing skin irritation for beachgoers.
Miami Beach city commissioners and county officials also attended the meeting to troubleshoot solutions. The most obvious answer of simply removing the seaweed is not so simple at all.
Currently, it costs $4.4 million per year for the county to employ tractors to cut and turn the seaweed on a daily basis across its 17 miles of beaches. According to a presentation by Maria Nardi, the county director of the parks and recreation department, complete daily removal of the seaweed could cost as much as $45 million per year.
Miami Beach commissioners passed a resolution to work with the county to find a long-term solution. City Manager Jimmy Morales voiced his support in exploring a pilot program to address the seaweed before the year’s end.
“This is one of those very difficult issues that I think there is a long-term solution to this,” he said. “We do need to plan for it going forward.”