A thick layer of Sargassum covers Red Hole at Crow Lane. *Photo by Gerald L. Bean
A thick layer of Sargassum covers Red Hole at Crow Lane. *Photo by Gerald L. Bean

MONDAY, DECEMBER 19: Bermuda’s beaches and bays have been carpeted with Sargassum seaweed over the weekend.

The seaweed, which forms the ecologically crucial Sargasso Sea in the ocean surrounding Bermuda, has been washed up due to a combination of tides and high winds from the west.

Dr Nicholas Bates, acting director at the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences, said: “It’s unusual to see that much Sargassum, but a couple of years ago there were similarly large amounts on the beaches.

“These mats of Sargassum are really important for the biology of the oceans surrounding Bermuda – it’s an important part of the ocean ecology.

“It’s part of the natural process that seaweed will come onto the shore. It helps the beaches regenerate and it will break down and eventually clear.”

Due to the westerly winds, the north shore of the island has been most affected, with large amounts of the seaweed at places like Bailey’s Bay and Shelly Bay.

The Sargasso Sea is recognised as a unique habitat and important as a spawning and feeding ground for several species of eels, fish and sea turtles, some of which are threatened species.

The Bermuda Government leads the Sargasso Sea Alliance, a group involving scientists, marine conservationists and private donors, aimed at protecting the habitat from threats like pollution.