At the start of this project, I knew a couple of things. Firstly, I knew that the Sargasso Sea, located between Bermuda in the West, the Azores in the East, and the northern Caribbean in the South is home to an ecologically important “forest” of Sargassum that scientists and environmentalists are working to protect. Secondly, I knew that a species of Sargassum is inundating Caribbean beaches and impacting the tourism industry in such a way that people are advocating for solutions for its eradication. These opposing causes both having to do with the same seaweed (one calling for its preservation and one working to rid it) seemed to me to be an interesting relationship. However, a research need arose. I needed to find sources that better and more directly tied these two causes together. The primary sources below were assembled and analyzed with the hopes of answering how advocates for the protection of the Sargasso Sea are actually in conversation with groups working to rid Caribbean beaches of Sargassum. Ultimately, I think the sources are showing that while advocacy groups purport to have concern for human communities, they forefront a need to keep Sargassum on the shores of the Caribbean rather than clearing the beaches.
Strengthening Stewardship of the Sargasso Sea, February 2019, Sargasso Sea Commission, 5. http://www.sargassoseacommission.org/storage/Strengthening_Stewardship_of_the_Sargasso_Sea.pdf
Strengthening Stewardship of the Sargasso Sea is one of the most recent reports generated by the Sargasso Sea Commission—a non-profit organization led by international leaders in ocean conservation who work to preserve the Sargasso Sea. The Commission posts all of their reports, including this one, to their website. This document outlines how the Sargasso Sea Commission hopes to restructure their efforts in order to be more effective in their charge. Specifically, on page 5 of the report, the Commission explains the growing threats that the Sargasso Sea faces. It states that the Sargasso Sea will feel the effects of the Sargassum inundations on the beaches in the Caribbean. The report notes that the inundations will affect the Sargasso Sea because sea turtles that spend developmental years in the Sargasso Sea also use beached Sargassum as habitat and nesting area. If beaches are being cleared of the Sargassum, then the turtles that are later an important part of the ecology of the Sargasso Sea will not be as prevalent. This portion of the report helps to expose how the Sargasso Sea Commission feels about efforts to clear beaches of Sargassum. The report brings to the surface the connections that might exist between organizations working to preserve the Sargasso Sea and the efforts being made to eradicate Sargassum washed ashore in the Mexican-Caribbean. The report might actually show how these two efforts are at odds.
“Sargassum Inundates the Beaches of the Caribbean,” Mission Blue, Sylvia Earle Alliance, October 27, 2014. https://mission-blue.org/2014/10/sargassum-inundates-the-beaches-of-the-caribbean/
“Sargassum Inundates the Beaches of the Caribbean” was a news post found on the Mission Blue website. Mission Blue is a non-profit organization founded by Dr. Sylvia Earle that advocates for the creation of Marine Protected Areas and that also has a working relationship with the Sargasso Sea Commission. Earle and Mission Blue are specifically working to make the Sargasso Sea a Marine Protected Area. This article explains the situation that beach communities in the Caribbean are facing with Sargassum inundations. While expounding upon the impact that Sargassum has on tourism, the article also highlights Earle’s strong commitment to natural systems. Direct quotations from Earle and excerpts from the text, in general, show that while Mission Blue understands human interests they still assert and perhaps prioritize the important ecological role that Sargassum plays (even mentioning the “helpless baby turtles” who no longer have habitat on the beaches). Earle notes that these inundations are likely a part of longer natural cycles that have happened many times before. It is as if Earle is almost suggesting that it’s out of our hands and that this should be naturally occurring anyhow. This article will firstly allow me to pull in the ideas and motivations of another Sargasso Sea advocacy group outside of the Sargasso Sea Commission. Secondly, the text pinpoints more clearly perhaps how groups outside of the Mexican Caribbean are conceiving of Sargassum inundation. It is highlighting how the efforts to clean up the shores in the Caribbean are at odds with how Sargasso Sea advocacy groups feel things should happen.
Elder, Luke and Jessie Neumann “The Sargasso Sum Up” The Ocean Foundation, September 9, 2015. https://oceanfdn.org/the-sargassum-sum-up/
“The Sargasso Sum Up” is a news post found on the Ocean Foundation’s website. The Ocean Foundation is a non-profit that supports worldwide organizations working to end the destruction of our world’s oceans by helping to raise capital and by providing administrative and fiscal advice. Dr. Mark Spalding, the President of The Ocean Foundation, was appointed to the Sargasso Sea Commission in 2015. The Ocean Foundation has an expressed interest in protecting the Sargasso Sea. But, they also seem to be recognizing the issues arising in the Caribbean regarding Sargasso blooms. This article specifically speaks to the issue of Sargassum inundation and provides insight about how to best eradicate it from the beaches. A number of times, the authors both acknowledge the human concerns regarding the tourism industry while also expressing an interest in leaving the Sargassum alone. Ultimately, though the article provides three separate solutions for how to sustainably clean the shores. In the end, the message sent is that while not ideal for nature, there are sustainable measures to be taken that are seen as acceptable by the Ocean Foundation. This source is useful in my research by firstly providing the perspective of a third organization involved in Sargasso Sea advocacy. But, it further helps to expose how these advocacy groups are conceiving of their relationship to the Sargassum inundation in the Caribbean. This particular article showcases that perhaps these organizations recognize human interests and are willing to help communities navigate their circumstances.
“Sargassum: Both an Environmental Economic Opportunity and a Challenge,” Global Foundation for Democracy and Development, March 19, 2019. https://www.globalfoundationdd.org/sargassum-both-an-environmental-economic-opportunity-and-a-challenge/
“Sargassum: Both an Environmental Economic Opportunity and a Challenge,” is a news post from the website of the Global Foundation for Democracy and Development. This foundation is a non-profit that works to advance global collaboration and exchange with Dominican professionals and institutions. In March of 2019, the Foundation hosted a panel discussion in collaboration with the Dominican Republic Environmental Film Festival about Sargassum inundations in the Caribbean. The news post outlines the panel discussion and highlights specific parts of the conversation. At the bottom of the page, the article includes a quotation from Mark Spalding, the President of the Ocean Foundation. Spalding commented,
“We need to put this in context. The ocean is changing. It is filled with plastics. We are not just seeing macro algae influences. We are also seeing micro algae impacting tourism in many places. If you allow Sargassum to stay on the beach it can help to build up beach stability which prepares it for the next hurricane…If we remove everything for the intent of saving tourism we may make some mistakes.”
This article and the quotation in particular help to showcase how Spalding is advocating for the Sargasso Sea outside of the Ocean Foundation’s website. It would appear that while the website expresses a concern for human interests and the tourism industry, Spalding, at least in this setting, was pushing for approaches that primarily relate to a deep concern for the environment. Ultimately, this article problematizes what the Ocean Foundation purports on its website. In the end, this article will help me to truly uncover how Sargasso Sea advocacy groups are truthfully feeling about efforts to eradicate Sargassum from Caribbean beaches.
Cashman, Adrian, Janice Cumberbatch, Emma Doyle, Frederique Fardin, Catrina Hinds, and Hazel Oxenford, “Golden Tides: Management Best Practices for Influxes of Sargassum in the Caribbean with a Focus on Clean-up,” Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries Institute, 2016, file:///Users/veronicavesnaver/Downloads/Sargassum_Management_Brief_2016_08_24%20(1).pdf
This report was written in collaboration with a number of research institutes who are associated with various academic institutions. Specifically, it was found on the website of the Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries Institute. The Institute is a non-profit organization that promotes the exchange of current information about the use and management of marine resources in the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean. The report, meant to be a practical guide for those in the tourism industry, relays how to most sustainably rid shores of Sargassum. The Institute highlights the issue of Sargassum as an “Emerging Issue” on their website. Their discussion of Sargassum focuses primarily on the socio-economic impacts of the Sargassum inundations rather than asserting a singular need to protect nature. This organization differs from the Sargasso Sea Commission, Mission Blue, and the Ocean Foundation in that it is not an advocacy group for the protection of the Sargasso Sea, but instead it is an Institute that thinks about management practices. By definition, it makes major considerations about the people that live in affected areas. As a result, this resource helps my research in two ways. Firstly, it shows in clear terms how Mexican Caribbean communities are possibly being instructed to clean their coastline by outside management institutions. But, secondly, it also emphasizes a specific quality of Sargasso Sea preservationists. Other kinds of organizations are recognizing human concerns, while groups like the Ocean Foundation and the Sargasso Sea Commission are perhaps emphasizing concerns for nature over people.