Next time you head to the beach, you may notice brown seaweed covering parts of the shoreline. Blooms of Sargassum, a brown-colored seaweed, typically appear on the beaches in our area during the spring and throughout the summer.
As Sargassum blooms, very large and dense mats of the seaweed may be brought ashore by winds and currents from the Atlantic Ocean. This year the bloom was much larger than normal, and as a result, you can expect to see larger than normal amounts of Sargassum on Jupiter beaches throughout the summer.
It is important to note that Sargassum is naturally occurring and plays a critical part in the beach, dune and oceanic ecosystems. It provides an important habitat for migratory organisms that have adapted specifically to this floating seaweed, including crab, shrimp, sea turtles and fish such as tuna and marlin. Sargassum accumulations also can capture wind-blown sand, which helps naturally build the beaches and makes them more resilient to erosion from storms or high wave events.
While it does have a lot of positive impacts, Sargassum can be considered a nuisance. Large accumulations may result in unpleasant odors caused by the hydrogen sulfide produced when the seaweed rots. Hydrogen sulfide can also irritate the eyes, nose and throat. If you have asthma or other breathing illnesses, you will be more sensitive to hydrogen sulfide. Although the seaweed itself cannot harm your health, tiny sea creatures living in Sargassum can cause skin rashes and blisters.
Palm Beach County maintains Jupiter’s beaches and has a “hands-off” management approach to Sargassum accumulations, due to the natural benefits of the seaweed. Sargassum accumulations also typically coincide with peak sea turtle nesting season during the summer months. Palm Beach County Parks and Recreation staff and volunteers do remove human-generated debris and litter from sargassum on County beaches.