Stop using trucks to remove beach seaweed: marine biologist

[Malta] The use of heavy machinery to remove seaweed from beaches causes irreversible damage to sand dunes, according to environmentalist Alan Deidun, who called for clean-ups to be done manually.

“Every year it’s the same issue. Environmentalists and experts call for the manual removal of seaweed and yet, year after year massive trucks are used,” Prof. Deidun told this newspaper.

He was reacting to reports last week that Għajn Tuffieħa Bay was looking more like a construction site than a Blue Flag beach, as a number of trucks were seen digging up the washed up seaweed.

According to Prof. Deidun, using trucks and bulldozers in this way caused irreversible damage to the sand dunes as the pressure eroded the surface of the dunes.

“The trucks’ huge wheels also cause a lot of damage, especially if they leave tyre marks in the sand and it were to rain,” he went on.

Prof. Deidun said that the problem had persisted for years, despite repeated calls by environmental NGOs. In 2013, he said, a bulldozer was deployed to Gozo’s Ramla l-Ħamra to clear away pebbles.

While commending the Malta Tourism Authority for taking up environmentalists’ suggestions and carrying out the works at this time of year, when less damage would be caused, Prof. Deidun reiterated that manually removing the algae was “inarguably the best option”.

“Now’s the right time to remove the seaweed, but not in this way. There is also an issue with the way the trucks are brought down to the beach since there is very sensitive fauna along the way,” he said.

Prof. Deidun said that the tourism authority needed to make the distinction between urbanised beaches and those which were not. While using heavy machinery might cause no damage at St George’s Bay, he said, the same methods could not be applied at other beaches.

An authority spokesman said when contacted that “heavy plant equipment is used sparingly and only when the volumes of dead algae are so high that they cannot be removed manually”.


Photo: Photos sent to Times of Malta this week showed two large trucks and one tractor being used at Għajn Tuffieħa Bay.

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