Beach houses, restaurants and other small businesses continue to be severely affected as large quantities of sargassum seaweed wash ashore along Trinidad’s east coast.
Mayaro MP Rushton Paray said while over 40 truckloads of seaweed had been removed before the Easter weekend, lamented that a lack of funding had crippled the Mayaro/Rio Claro Regional Corporation’s (MRCRC) response to the seaweed.
On 15 April, the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management (ODPM) said “significant quantities” of the seaweed had been observed off the east-southeast coast, mainly in the Point Radix, Manzanilla and Mayaro areas.
The ODPM said sargassum is a genus of large brown seaweed (a type of algae) which floats in island-like masses and emits a strong odour.
“However, sargassum seaweed does not sting or irritate skin, nor is the odour toxic. Citizens, tourists and all marine interests are urged to be vigilant and exercise caution when on the nation’s beaches and venturing out to sea,” the ODPM said.
In a telephone interview, Paray said the Ministry of Local Government had not given the corporation any additional funding, although it made a plea for an increased allocation some two years ago.
“About two years ago in Parliament I raised this matter with the then line minister Franklin Khan and I asked him if he would consider putting a line entry in the budget in terms of local government for Mayaro, to put some money aside to deal with sargassum. Because this is going to be the regular visitor to the shores based on global warming, climate change. We’re going to find more of this occurrence coming up,” he said.
“Nothing happened based on the request we had made, and it was a real challenge this Easter to have the beach in some sort of order. The Easter weekend was hampered tremendously. We were able to clean a few of the areas, the high-traffic areas in Church Road, Plaisance, Indian Bay – but what was reported was as fast as they clean up this morning, the tides roll in, is more sargassum come up,” he said.
He pointed out that when prospective visitors realise there is sargassum, ‘They not coming up to the beach, they not coming up to the beach houses. So it impacts employment, it impacts the business in the restaurants, the small business. It has a very damaging effect.”