Sargassum is a type of brown seaweed that is washing up on beaches in Florida. Sargassum in the water is an incredibly important resource for marine life - it provides breeding ground for species like mahi mahi, camouflage which allow juvenile sea turtles to be safe while they reach maturity, and are the only habitat for special species such as the sargassum fish and crab.
Since 2011 the Caribbean has been experiencing blooms of sargassum seaweed. These blooms are so large that the University of South Florida have developed sargassum bloom maps of when we may be seeing strandings wash up on our beaches.
There is a lot of research about why these blooms are happening and our Webinar featuring one of the world’s most respected sargassum scientists describes some of them. Largely the scientists studying the sargassum blooms in the Caribbean agree that this is likely a symptom of global climate change among other issues including increased nutrient loads in our oceans.
Sargassum is not harmful to humans but the tiny sea creatures that live in sargassum may sting or bite.
The City is required to have a permit from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to perform “beach cleaning” or the management of sargassum in our wrack line. With this permit, we are only allowed to run our beach tractor 10 feet seaward from the dunes and up to the median high water line (high tide line/wrack line).
For public safety reasons and due to beach crowding we run the tractor in the morning. During sea turtle season we have to wait until the daily Sea Turtle Survey has been completed by the Broward Sea Turtle Conservation Program before we can run the tractor.
Because of all of these reasons, the beach is likely to have sargassum on the beach from the high tide line seaward after the tide comes in following the morning tractor run. We are not allowed within our permit to clean this section of the beach and for good reason, the sargassum “wrack line” is an important source of food for many animals we share the beach with including sand pipers, crabs, and the endangered piping plover which may use our beach for feeding.
Our beach cleaning permit conditions do not change during these heavy strandings and we remain diligent to do our morning tractor runs with the exception of when our permit-approved machinery is malfunctioning.