Algae invades Colombian island’s beaches

An unusually robust and early invasion of brown-colored algae has invaded the beaches around this Colombian Caribbean island, potentially posing a threat to tourism, experts and local residents said.

The seasonal proliferation of algae typically starts in December but has arrived early and in greater quantities this year and is affecting mostly the central area of San Andres, according to experts from the Corporation for the Sustainable Development of the Archipelago of San Andres, Providencia and Santa Catalina.

Scientists investigating the causes of this invasion of seaweed, known as Sargassum, and its impact on wildlife and the human population say it is not harmful to human health or the environment, although it may bring some uncomfortable itching for those swimming off San Andres, one of Colombia’s main tourist attractions.

“We have never seen such a proliferation of algae,” a government employee on San Andres told Efe.

Rosalia Rodriguez, who lives on the island, said the boost in algae starts in the Bermuda Triangle region of the Atlantic Ocean and she is worried about the impact on tourist arrivals, especially after two Argentine visitors – one of whom sustained gunshot wounds – were mugged in August.

Rodriguez called on the Colombian government to assist in cleaning up the beaches since the seaweed also clogs the engines of small boats, making navigation difficult.


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