Sargassum Seaweed Management

seagull and sargassum

The City's Response to Sargassum Seaweed

What is Sargassum

Sargassum Facts

Sargassum seaweed is a type of brown algae that drifts on the ocean surface, often accumulating in large, dense mats formed by wind and currents. 

Sargassum itself is not harmful to human health, but tiny organisms that live in it can irritate skin with direct contact.

Sargassum Bloom Management

Sargassum blooms in the Atlantic Ocean and is spread throughout the Caribbean, the Gulf of Mexico, Florida, and beyond primarily by the Gulf Stream. As sargassum blooms and is spread by currents, very large and dense mats may be brought ashore by prevailing winds and currents. 

South Florida has been experiencing sargassum blooms for many years. This year's bloom is the largest record-breaking bloom South Florida will experience. The Great Atlantic Sargassum Belt — the sargassum collection area that sprawls across 5,000 miles from the Gulf of Mexico to the west coast of Africa — contained about 13 million tons of seaweed by the end of March 2023, according to researchers at the University of South Florida’s Optical Oceanography Lab who have been monitoring the sargassum belt via satellite.

Research is ongoing about why these blooms are happening. Recently, one of the world’s most respected sargassum scientists explained some of the reasons during our Sargassum Seaweed Virtual Seminar. Broadly, 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. 

The City is participating in the Sargassum Regional Exchange with Broward County, Miami-Dade County, Monroe County, Palm Beach County, and local municipalities to discuss the current state of the beaches and opportunities to coordinate the management of the Sargassum Belt's impact on our communities.

We are committed to ensuring that our beach remains clean, safe, and enjoyable for everyone while protecting our natural environment.

Beach Cleaning

The City is required to have a permit from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to perform beach cleaning in our wrack line. Here’s what you need to know:

  • We run our beach tractor 10 feet seaward from the dunes and up to the median high-water line (high tide line/wrack line)
  • The tractor is run in the morning prior to the beach getting busy
  • During the 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.
  • Sargassum may accumulate after the crews clean the morning debris
  • Beach cleanings will be paused during inclement weather.
  • We are not permitted to clean the wrack line where some sargassum seaweed accumulates because it serves as an essential food sources and shelter for many animals we share the beach with, including sand pipers, crabs, and the endangered piping plover

Click here to learn more about the wrack.

Resident Info and Additional Resources

Beach Furniture and Flags

It is extremely important that the beach remains clear from pre-set furniture for the City to be successful with our daily clean up.   In accordance with Sections 16-4 and 16-7 of the City Code, the practice of pre-setting beach furniture and the use of flags to designate areas on the beach are considered a violation of the City Code.  Citations will be issued when this practice is observed. Beach furniture and other personal belongings cannot be stored on the beach and must be stored on private property.

How You Can Help

  • Stay away from and do not block moving tractors during clean-up
  • Refrain from throwing sargassum in the trash
  • Avoid touching or swimming near sargassum to prevent stinging or irritation from organisms living in it
  • Always supervise children at the beach