Seafields, in partnership with Seaweed Solutions Group, the University of the West Indies, Skeetes Bay Market and Barbados Fisheries Division, is spearheading a brand-new initiative to solve the persistent issue of sargassum beaching in the Caribbean. Yesterday, Friday, June 7th, in Barbados, the companies demonstrated a solution currently being tested.

For years, the Caribbean has been grappling with the relentless influx of sargassum that poses significant challenges to coastal communities, tourism, and marine ecosystems. The recent surge in sightings of vast amounts of sargassum in the Atlantic Ocean has further intensified these challenges. With every wave, beaches are inundated with sargassum, causing navigation hazards, marine life casualties, and emitting toxic gases like hydrogen sulphide.

Recognising the urgent need for innovative solutions, Seafields is spearheading change in sargassum management, seeing the seaweed less as a problem, but more as a valuable resource waiting to be harnessed for the greater good. At yesterday's event, Seafields presented sargassum which it recently caught in the open ocean, in conjunction with the local blue economy initiative Skeetes Bay Market and Seaweed Solutions Group. They then demonstrated how they run it through a screw-press – a piece of technology used to extract water from the seaweed, which will be turned into useful products, such as fertilisers, beauty products, fabrics, and more. The water and pulp drained will also be tested for their chemical components with help from laboratories at USDA, and the remaining sargassum will be turned into bales.

Franziska Elmer, Head Scientist at Seafields, said: "This is an incredibly exciting project for all involved and a big milestone for Seafields. Sargassum, often viewed as a symptom of climate change, holds immense potential in our fight against it. This pilot demonstration signifies a step towards a viable, safe, and scalable solution to remediate the problem sargassum creates. Currently, nations are being forced to put the sargassum in landfill or burn it, which emits methane. By showcasing our work, research, and pilot ‘live’ we want to give many people hope for the future and in our joint effort to combat climate change. Together, we will remediate the problem and democratise the battle against sargassum together, once and for all.”

Project Owner, Michael Hinds from Skeetes Bay Market said: "We at Skeetes Bay Market see this collaboration with Seafields and Seaweed Solutions as the perfect synergy to accomplish our goals of enhancing livelihoods within the community, improving food security nationally and supporting economic development. Leveraging the cumulative expertise of the stakeholders, we aim to turn sargassum seaweed from an invasive problem to an opportunity to understand and work in harmony with our natural marine environment to bring about benefits for all."

Spencer Serin, Head of Science at Seaweed Solutions Group, said: “We are thrilled to contribute our expertise in designing and implementing scalable processing solutions for seaweed. Our commitment to innovation aligns perfectly with Seafields' mission to harness the potential of sargassum for positive environmental impact. The collaborative approach between our companies ensures that sargassum management is not only economically viable but also environmentally sustainable. Together, we can unlock new possibilities in tackling sargassum blooms and advancing sustainable practices for the benefit of our planet."

Seafields – while not responsible for developing commercial products using sargassum – the company will focus on the ecological aspects of the project. The bales of sargassum created during this processing pilot will be transported to an ongoing study called SeaSINC – a collaborative effort to monitor the effects of seaweed deposition in the Caribbean. This project, taking place on board the James Cook vessel in Barbadian waters, will see Seafields and deep-sea specialists from the National Oceanography Centre and Integrated Environmental Solutions place sargassum at depths of 1500 and 4300 m for a long time period. By doing this, the team will officially assess the feasibility of seaweed sinking as a marine carbon dioxide removal technique and monitor the impact depositing the bales will have on the seafloor.

Franziska Elmer continued: “Sargassum has been sinking naturally for thousands of years, with millions of tons of it sinking to the bottom of the ocean each year; it is an important part of the natural carbon flux to the deep sea. However, only a handful of studies have documented this. None of them have investigated what positive and negative long-term impacts a Sargassum fall has on the deep-sea floor. The results of this study will be truly ground-breaking, and provide a solution to communities within the Caribbean, catching sargassum before it beaches, and lock-away methane from being put into the atmosphere. If we are right and if the impact on the seafloor is seldom, Seafields will be able to proceed with its science-based solutions for climate change mitigation, offering hope for a sustainable future.”