Giant seaweed blob washing up on Florida beaches getting smaller

Sargassum quantity decreased by 15% from April to May 2023, research shows

The effect stinky seaweed has on respiratory health

ORLANDO, Fla. – The massive blob of seaweed that started stinking up Florida beaches earlier this year has started to shrink, according to researchers at the University of South Florida.

The 5,000-mile mass of seaweed, part of what’s called the Great Atlantic Sargassum Belt, which stretches from west Africa to the Gulf of Mexico, started washing up on Florida shores in early April.

But a report released by the USF optical oceanography lab shows the quantity of sargassum actually decreased by 15% from April to May 2023. This marks the first time it has shrunk during this time of year since 2011 when studies of the seaweed first began.

Scientists said it’s largely due to the decreasing amounts of brown, smelly seaweed appearing in the eastern Atlantic. The sargassum quantity was halved from March to April, then halved again from April to May, the report shows.

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It is unknown why the seaweed blob experienced such a sharp decrease and if it will continue elsewhere, according to the outlook of 2023 sargassum blooms.

But researchers said they expect sargassum quantity to continue to decrease in the Gulf of Mexico in June, much to the delight of Florida beachgoers.

The brown seaweed, which can carry flesh-eating bacteria and make you sick, is known for its smell. As it rots, sargassum gives off a substance called hydrogen sulfide, which smells like rotten eggs.

At high concentrations, Florida Atlantic University Research Professor Brian Lapointe said that gas can be bad for your health.

“A study a couple of years back in 2018 in Guadeloupe and Martinique reported that — I think it was 11 or 12,000 people were diagnosed in clinics there for having acute exposure to hydrogen sulfide and I’m hearing now reports that pregnant women are particularly vulnerable to the effects of hydrogen sulfide,” Lapointe said. “So it’s just something to be wary of, and know about and educate yourself.”

To read the latest research, click here.

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