ENVIRONMENT: The State and the Collectivity are mobilizing against Sargassum

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Two important meetings took place recently in the Prefecture and at the Collectivity within the framework of the problem of the massive groundings of these algae on the beaches of Saint-Martin.

On February 1, the videoconference of the National Steering Committee on the Sargassum Plan will have lasted 2h30 to discuss progress in terms of knowledge of the phenomenon, technical advances and financial resources to fight against the environmental scourge. All ministries, state services, prefects and elected officials are mobilizing. Following this first nationwide meeting, another meeting took place last Friday at the Collectivity in association with the prefecture. In the presence of representatives of the Collectif Anti-Sargasses, Fabien Sésé, secretary general at the Prefecture, Florian Mioni of DEAL, Bernadette Davis, 2nd vice-president of the COM and Igor Remmotte, project manager following Laurent Guillaume, n did not fail to share their involvement in stemming the seasonal phenomenon which is becoming annual. Up to 80% of certain expenses in 2022 will be reimbursed by the State, with a budget increased by 30% for the next 5 years with regard to the collection and disposal of algae, i.e. an additional 1M euros. According to officials, the focus will be on picking up the coastline quickly and respectfully, which has receded 32 meters since 2010. As the public market is coming to an end, the new contract, up to €700.000, the collection techniques of which will be modified to avoid the abusive collection of sand, will take effect by the end of March 2023, two purchase orders (capped by an amount which has not yet been reached) are in progress. The overall redevelopment of the Bay of Cul-de-Sac will be the subject of a study with the consideration of a specific development to collect Sargassum and the restoration of public infrastructures. Landfilling will be systematic and storage limited: algae are loaded with arsenic and heavy metals, ongoing studies require precautionary measures to be taken. Thanks to the experience acquired over the past 4 years, the intervention procedures will be adapted. Studies show that collection at sea is the most expensive, on land less expensive. In addition to the installation of 5 surveillance cameras for Sargassum rafts, the companies concerned will be responsible for offering the best tools for collection, leaving room for the manual on sites with high environmental value, while securing operators on the health aspect. Pending the installation of 5 fixed stations for detecting the gas levels released by Sargassum which will be installed near residential areas, the measurements carried out by the ARS resumed this week at a rate of 2 to 3 times a week with a 1st raised at the level of the sargassum, a second at 5 meters and a 3rd near the dwellings. No “public health” alert has yet to be declared. Officials also communicated on the investment in two experimental dams 350 meters long at Cul-de-Sac and at the mouth of the mangrove at Galion for installation in May/June 2023.

  The sargassum season is off to a strong start

In its pelagic sargassum grounding monitoring and forecasting bulletin for the northern islands communicated this Monday, February 6, 2023, Météo France announces as a means the risk of seaweed grounding for Saint-Martin and Saint-Barthélemy.

Some beaches on the French part of the island have been particularly affected by sargassum groundings since the start of the season and the forecasts do not seem to be optimistic. Arrivals from the east will continue. Until the end of this week, accumulations are possible on the shores exposed to the flow, especially on the east of Saint-Martin. While many small sargassum filaments are currently in transit in the Canals and around Saint-Martin and Saint-Barthélemy, many rafts are found throughout the eastern Caribbean arc, extending over hundreds miles east on the Atlantic. The supply of Sargassum is therefore still almost uninterrupted because favored by drifts which are generally in the eastern sector. Both the trends for the next two weeks and those for the next two months, we can expect a season loaded with sargassum strandings. _VX

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