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Massive Amounts Of Sargassum Seaweed Arrive On Florida Beaches

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A record-breaking mass of sargassum seaweed is threatening to ruin beach vacations throughout Florida.

For months, a giant accumulation of seaweed has been floating in the Atlantic and slowly drifting towards popular vacation spots including Florida, the Caribbean, and the Riviera Maya. And now it has finally arrived.

Sargassum seaweed on the beach in Miami under a dark sky

Sargassum is a common occurrence in these areas. What is uncommon, however, is the unpreceded size of the seaweed mass this year.

Here’s everything you need to know about the impact it is having on Florida’s beaches right now and how it could impact your travel plans.

What Is Sargassum?

Sargassum Seaweed is a naturally occurring brown algae bloom. Each winter, it grows in the Atlantic before drifting west and finally washing ashore.

Typically it makes landfall between April and October, but it first started washing up much earlier this year.

piles of sargassum seaweed litter the beach

Not only is the seaweed a physical nuisance on the beach – it can wash up in massive piles up to 6 feet tall, impeding access to the water –  but it also releases an unbearable rotten egg smell as it decomposes.

It can also cause problems in the water, making swimming uncomfortable, clogging boat propellers, hindering fishing trips, and even sucking oxygen from the water, creating dead zones.

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A tractor rides down a beach pushing seaweed into a pile

How Bad Is It In Florida Right Now?

Researchers from the University of South Florida estimated that the seaweed belt has grown to a weight of 13 million tons as of last month. They also anticipate that when it likely peaks in July, the size of the sargassum mass could double.

Right now, some of the most affected areas are in the Florida Keys. There are reports that the typically clear blue waters of Marathon, Florida have been inundated by the seaweed.

Additionally, beaches on Florida’s east coast, including Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale, and the Miami Beach area, are also seeing mounds of sargassum wash ashore.

According to a report from AccuWeather, it is also impacting the southern regions of Hispaniola as well as areas of Jamaica and Puerto Rico.

Will It Impact Your Trip To Florida?

When sargassum arrives on a beach, it comes in bursts that depend largely on tides, weather, and currents.

That means it is impossible to know exactly when, where, and how much seaweed will wash up in any given location.

What we do know is that its arrival is likely to peak during June and July, and it will probably be more than has been seen in previous years.  

A beach in Florida is full of seaweed and people

If you have a beach vacation planned in or near any of the affected areas, it is possible that the seaweed could impact your trip.

While most municipalities have plans in place for its removal, there could be instances where the sargassum builds up enough to make accessing the water difficult.

And even if the seaweed is removed from the beach, it could remain in the water making swimming unpleasant.

The seaweed’s noxious odor can also make lounging on the beach or playing in the sand a non-starter. So should you cancel your trip?

Not necessarily, but there are a few things you can do to reduce the chances of a ruined vacation.

What Can You Do To Prepare?

There are a few things travelers can do to reduce the seaweed’s impact on their vacation. Here are a few tips:

@cbsmornings Beachgoers along Florida's east coast are encountering enormous clumps of seaweed from a colossal seaweed blob drifting in from the Atlantic Ocean, known as sargassum. #sargassum #seaweed #florida #beaches #tourism ♬ original sound – CBS Mornings
  • Before you book, check with your hotel and/or the local authorities to make sure they have a management plan in place for the sargassum’s removal.
  • Make sure your hotel has a nice pool that you can use in the event the beach is full of seaweed. You can also look into using facilities at other hotels through sites like ResortPass.
  • Consider purchasing travel insurance that includes “trip cancellation for any reason” coverage.
  • Many popular beaches now have webcams where you can check the current status of the beach. The Florida Keys Website hosts a page with webcams for all areas, and a quick Google search will help you find webcams for other areas. Take a look before heading to the beach to avoid disappointment.

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Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.

Douglas Martz

Tuesday 16th of May 2023

This is the same problem as Lake st. Clair the water is nutriate rich it is just more massive

gary witt

Sunday 14th of May 2023

Don't forget Texas beaches, too. Today's beach at Surfside Beach (Freeport) covered with the stuff over a foot high at waterline!


Thursday 18th of May 2023

@gary witt, just be careful you don’t get shot