Florida coast hit by ‘stinky’ seaweed invasion

A so-called “stinky” invasion is jeopardizing beaches and local economies from the coasts of South Florida to the Caribbean, but experts aren’t sure why it’s happening.

The Weather Channel reported sargassum seaweed is a thick plant that has overtaken beaches in Florida in recent weeks and has dominated several Caribbean island coastlines for the past few years.

A report by the University of Miami said the weed isn’t just smelly, but it blocks out light for organisms that need the sun. The report said the seaweed is taking a toll on local ecosystems.

“It’s catastrophic,” James Franks, a marine biologist at the University of Southern Mississippi, told Science Magazine. “Right now, there’s [another] huge mass impacting Puerto Rico, and that’s the last thing they need.”

The weed was first spotted in 2011. Science Magazine said the blooms have returned every year since. The plant has far-reaching impacts. The government of Barbados has declared an emergency, and one of Antigua’s largest hotels has been forced to close until October.

Experts said besides the physical toll the seaweed takes on local marine life, the blooms smell like rotten eggs. But, scientists said the plants are not toxic to humans.

University of Miami marine scientist Lew Gramer said in a report that the seaweed could be the result of climate change. Oceanographers first noted unusual patterns in the Sargasso Sea, a region of the North Atlantic Ocean where the sargassum seaweed originates, just before the first mass arrival of the plant.

While the plant poses no direct threat to humans, the invasion is a huge problem in the Caribbean and some said each season has been worse than the last.