Sargassum seaweed flows have been a nightmare for the Caribbean since 2011, but the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM) and Plant and Food Research (PFR), a crown research institute owned by the New Zealand government, are developing a regional project aimed at transforming sargassum into innovative products that will create jobs and income, as well as help build the region’s resilience to climate change and mitigate the negative impacts of sargassum in the region.
During 2023, CRFM and Plant & Food Research, in partnership with other public and private sector organizations in the Caribbean, will focus on laboratory-scale work and field trials to develop suitable Sargassum algae primary products for commercial use.
A team from the CRFM Secretariat and Plant & Food Research recently visited Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados to meet with key stakeholders as they move forward with a Phase II project titled Sargassum Product Development for Climate Resilience in the Caribbean.
“Sargassum continues to be a major problem for our countries, coastal communities and commercial companies, especially those in the fishing and tourism sectors that operate in the coastal and marine environment. We had a very productive mission to Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago to meet with partners and stakeholders interested in creating value-added products from Sargassum. We are very confident that we can work with interested partners to develop viable products and create jobs and income streams for our people from this natural resource (Sargassum) that has been inundating our waters and shores for the past 12 years. Our focus now is to develop and test these product and treatment prototypes with Sargassum. “We will also develop a product marketing strategy,” said Milton Hughton, CRFM CEO.
Rosie Patterson-Lima, International Development Program Director at Plant & Food Research, said her organization’s involvement was made possible with funding from the New Zealand Government’s International Development Cooperation Programme.
“It is exciting for us to partner with the region on this challenge and bring our expertise in agronomy, value chain analysis and marketing to the table. Together, our goal is to reduce the problems caused by Sargassum by creating viable economic opportunities in the region. We are delighted that Dr. Tyrrell Thompson, from Barbados, has recently joined the project implementation team as a consultant.”Dr. Thompson is a chemical engineer and materials engineer with impressive knowledge and experience in the sargassum industry,” said Patterson Lima.
The mission ran from January 30 to February 11, 2023, and in Trinidad and Tobago, the team met with representatives from the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI), the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), and the Caribbean Industrial Research Institute (CARIRI). ), the University of the West Indies School of Engineering, the Association of Caribbean States, the Caribbean Private Sector Organization (CPSO) and representatives of the Government of Trinidad and Tobago.
In Barbados, the parties met with officials from the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries Division, the Government of Barbados National Conservation Commission, UWI – Cave Hill Campus, the European Union, CARDI, UNDP, FAO, fishermen’s organizations and the Samuel Institute. Jackman Prescod Technology.
The purpose of these engagements was to exchange information about the project, explore opportunities for collaboration and strengthen partnerships within the framework of the project.
CRFM and Plant & Food Research have successfully completed the first phase of the project, during which they worked with partners in Barbados, Belize, Jamaica and the Dominican Republic to conduct safety testing of sargassum raw materials and review potential products that could be manufactured. from Sargassum.
Now they are embarking on the second phase of the project, which is product and process development.
Sargassum blooms have already begun in the Atlantic, and are expected to flood the Caribbean by April 2023.
The document “2023 Outlook for Sargassum Blooms in the Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico,” published by the University of South Florida Visual Oceanography Laboratory on February 1, 2023, reveals that “the total amount of Sargassum in the Atlantic Ocean doubled from December 2022 to January ) 2023 (8.7 million tons), again setting a new record (the previous record for January was 6.5 million tons in 2018).
Forecasts indicated that this is the second consecutive monthly doubling of Sargassum, previously only observed in 2018, and all indications are that Sargassum biomass will continue to accumulate and migrate west over the next few months.
Climate change has been identified as one of the major contributing factors to this phenomenon affecting our region, mainly our coastal fishing communities, over the past 12 years.
The CRFM-Plant & Food Research collaboration will identify and use sustainable technologies suitable for efficient harvesting of sargassum, according to international best practices.
And the final stage is supply chain outreach and development, which will include the deployment of a model to stakeholders in the industry and the Caribbean at large.