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SARGASSO SEAWEED IS BACK IN ANTIGUA!
Sunday 29th July 2012

This story about Sargasso Seaweed in Antigua was written by Alicia Simon of Observer Media on Thursday, July 12, 2012.

St. John’s Antigua- Despite claims from the executive director of the Sargasso Sea Alliance that sargassum seaweed increases the amount of fish in and around Antigua & Barbuda’s waters, the island’s fishermen say that the benefits are few and far between.

In an interview on OBSERVER AM Wednesday, Dr David Freestone of the Washington-based organisation, said although the seaweed can be “noxious”, it also has positive side effects.

“The good part is that it acts like…a fish aggregation device (FAD)…when you float something in the open ocean, fish congregate underneath it. This not only has fish and creatures that live in it, but it also has a lot of fish that live under it. So you increase the amount of fish available in Antigua. It is just that it causes some collateral issues,” the executive director said.

He added, “The sargassum creates a completely unique eco system with a lot of creatures that only live in the sargassum. It also provides an amazing habitat for fish that we like to catch and eat, like dolphin fish, wahoo and tuna.”

Dr Freestone did acknowledge, though, that the seaweed could cause some “collateral issues” to the ecology of the island—including stifling the oxygen in the water by blocking sunlight from reaching the seabed and shoreline.

However, some fishermen on the frontline said that the “collateral issues” are far too great to view the seaweed as anything more than a nuisance.

“It is not a good thing for nobody, nowhere, not at all,” declared sports fisherman Captain George “Palo” Bailey in an interview with OBSERVER Media.  “It is not a positive thing being around here, it is all negative.”

Although the 35-year sport-fishing veteran concedes that FADs do bring more fish to the area, they are not the fish that sports fishermen covet.

“From my experience, the seaweed, the only fish that they brought with them is the small dolphin (fish) this time of the year, not really anything that is over 15 or 20 pounds,” the captain said. “The seaweed, I really don’t think they bring anything special with them.”

Immediate past president of the Fishermen’s Association Gerald Pryce, however, believes that fishermen, like Captain Bailey, are the “10 per cent” of fisherman that may actually benefit from the ecological happening.

“A few sport fishermen who spoke with us at our meetings, say at some occasions it is easy for them (to catch fish). They just go and troll near the sargassum weed and they have some nice fish, ” Pryce said.

He added that the sargassum drifts make it “easier” for the sports fishermen, as they would not have to journey 20 to 30 miles off the coast of Antigua & Barbuda to access FADs.

The sargassum seaweed resurged—in a lesser quantity—over the last week, after the invasion subsided last year. The last occurrence of the seaweed also led to hotel closures.
 


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