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Where is the sargassum seaweed in the Atlantic Ocean going?

Posted at 5:58 PM, Mar 16, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-16 19:54:33-04

As you likely continue to hear about the sargassum floating in the Atlantic Ocean, a 5,500-mile seaweed belt, Fox 4 wants to remind you Florida Gulf Coast University Water School’s professor Dr. Barry Rosen has said yes, it will get into the Gulf of Mexico. But he says Southwest Florida residents have little to worry about. Read the Full Story.

"It's been around for probably a decade,” said Dr. Rosen. “Very common in the Caribbean Sea. It's also native to our Gulf of Mexico. But it doesn't really get into the kind of abundance that we see in the Caribbean."

With that in mind, but you might be saying ‘I'm seeing these scary-looking pictures of seaweed piled up on beaches.’ Take a pause, a lot of those are from the past, and not from Southwest Florida. For example, 2019 was a bad sargassum year, but in Naples there is only a thin line on the beach, some floating in the water.

But where does it all go? It all depends on the currents. Sargassum typically grows in the Sargasso Sea, then is pushed south along the African Coast with the Canary Current. Then it drifts west along the Great Atlantic Sargassum Belt. That's where the seaweed feeds on things like Amazon runoff nutrients and Saharan Dust. It finally arrives in the Caribbean where it can land on beaches and enter the Gulf of Mexico. Once there, it's up to winds and the loop current. Much of the time, Sargassum pushes towards Texas, gets stuck in eddies, or loops around the Florida Keys. And if it gets around the Keys, the Gulf Stream quickly moves the seaweed north, washing up on Florida beaches if there is an east wind.

And while we could get this seaweed on Southwest Florida Beaches, Dr. Rosen says it is possible that we don’t as well. But places like Fort Myers Beach told Fox 4 Thursday, that they are monitoring the situation. But FGCU’s Dr. Rosen says we will, for sure, continue to deal with Red Tide, and that should be our focus area.