DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The brown seaweed that smells like rotten eggs and is washing up on our beaches may not be pleasant to be around, but experts say it’s what many areas of the coast needed after recent storms.
The seaweed called sargassum has been showing up for the last few weeks. Those on the beach in Volusia County think it could help rebuild the dunes and beaches after last year’s hurricanes took several dozen feet of sand back to the ocean.
“A lot of people think we move it. We don’t move it. It just gets covered by the sand and that’s what gives us that elevation,” Beach Safety Capt. AJ Miller said.
Miller said as unpleasant as it is to be around, it’s also an important tool.
“That sargassum seaweed washes on the beach. We get those Nor‘easterly winds coming through, that wind-driven sand blows, the seaweed collects it and that’s what builds up,” he said.
The eroded beaches have not only been an issue with the dunes but have caused problems for beach driving.
“When we have high tides with this low elevation we have to close quite often because the water is coming across the traffic lanes,” he said.
The sargassum typically shows up in smaller amounts every year but in the last two years, Central Florida has seen record amounts.
This year, a big contributor is a 5,000-mile-wide blob of seaweed called the Great Atlantic Sargassum Belt. University of South Florida researchers estimate it’s been moving about 13 million tons of sargassum toward Florida.
“It mixes around and gets in the golf stream and then pushes in depending on the currents and tides that we have,” Miller said.
Those researchers predict beaches in the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico will see the most.
Some counties in Florida are working to get it off their beaches but Miller says in Volusia, they will keep it here.
“Not only building up the sand dunes but building up the beach elevation, it’s going to allow us to keep beach access open longer because the tide’s not going to come up as high,” he said.
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