Since 2011, holopelagic Sargassum fluitans
have been arriving en masse to the wider Caribbean region and West Africa, impacting near-shore habitats and coastal communities. We examined the impacts of the Sargassum influx on tourism-related businesses through face-to-face interviews and focus groups and on near-shore seagrass beds through in-water surveys in the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI). Substantial accumulations of sargassum were found on the beaches of South Caicos and Middle Creek Cay in 2018 and 2019, including a Sargassum brown tide in 2018. A variety of different approaches to removing sargassum from the beaches were mentioned and a desire from local businesses as well as local authorities to find a sustainable, cost-effective solution to what is viewed by many as a serious problem. The brown tide and sargassum accumulating as a layer on the benthos inside the seagrass beds caused significant loss of Thalassia testudinum
. Halodule wrightii
, macroalgae and sand plains were found in the areas lost by T. testudinum.
This finding suggests that, if a cost-effective end use for sargassum could be identified, harvesting material in inshore waters rather than when it has arrived on the beach would have dual benefits.
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