The heavy mat of Sargassum seaweed along the shore of Coral Bay is solid enough to support a flock of seagulls, difficult for small boats to traverse and very aromatic.
CORAL BAY — The director of the Coral Bay Community Council (CBCC) is encouraged to see local and federal agencies taking action against the sargassum build-up troubling the territory and wants them to turn their attention to heavily-impacted Coral Bay.
CBCC has been relaying concerns from area residents about the brown mats of seaweed that release a powerful stench as they decompose in the sun, according to organization Director Sharon Coldren.
The Department of Planning and Natural Resources (DPNR) acknowledged that the agency, along with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, is starting to direct clean up efforts. However, DPNR Public Relations Director Jamal Neilsen said those efforts are only taking place in one area so far.
St. John officials have taken steps to corral the migrating marine vegetation in the past. Last November crews from the Department of Public Works, joined by day workers, tackled a carpet of sargassum covering Cruz Bay Beach in front of Wharfside Village.
Coral Bay Deserves Attention
Coral Bay hasn’t received that kind of attention yet, Coldren pointed out.
“CBCC has been relaying citizen concerns about the continuous influx of Sargassum seaweed and the associated hydrogen sulfide smell and environmental degradation to shoreline seagrass and coral habitats, as well as the human and economic consequences to the shoreline rental villa business,” Coldren said.
How bad is the problem? DPNR’s Neilsen said the odor of decomposing sargassum has been bad enough for DPNR workers at the Division of Fish and Wildlife in Red Hook, St. Thomas, to be excused from work on certain days.
“EPA and DPNR have stepped up to look more fully at the consequences and perhaps do something about it,” Coldren said.
Coldren urged residents of Coral Bay and other parts of St. John to take pictures and send comments about their sargassum experiences to Jim Casey at the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on St. Thomas and to DPNR’s Director of Environment Protection Norman Williams.