NewsTreasure CoastRegion Martin County


Sargassum blob hitting Treasure Coast just before Memorial Day weekend

University of South Florida Optical Oceanography Professor Dr. Chuanmin Hu said it's not enough to be concerned
sargassum May 26 2023.png
Posted at 5:30 PM, May 26, 2023
and last updated 2023-05-26 17:54:17-04

JENSEN BEACH, Fla. — It's ugly, it’s lumpy, and it can be smelly. It's sargassum seaweed.

WPTV last reported, there’s a giant blob of it, larger than the continental United States, floating in the Atlantic, and it's headed straight for Florida’s coast.

It's probably not the news anyone wanted to hear right before one of the busiest beach days of the year.

"A lot of seaweed, yes a lot, we actually saw, it looked like an island floating in," said Tana Brea, who spent Friday at Dollman Park in Jensen Beach. "Gross. I've lived here my whole life and I've never seen it this bad."

"It's strange," added Amun Awad, who spent the day in Jensen Beach with his mom, Pilar. "Honestly, I don’t even know how to say it."

"It's everywhere, we could see it actually now coming up, we thought we might go that way but it’s over there too," Pilar Awad said. "I've never seen this much of it, this is a lot."

The good news is, while clumps of it wash up from the giant blob in the sea, it doesn't have to ruin weekend plans.

According to a sargassum risk assessment map published by National Oceanic and Atmostpheric Administration and the University of South Florida, the Treasure Coast and Miami are expected to see the brunt of the Sargassum washing ashore, at least for now.

Sargassum Map, NOAA
Sargassum Risk Assessment map shows the seaweed hitting the Treasure Coast and Miami at a "moderate" inundation.

The map, updated weekly, is from the period of May 16 through May 22, and is the latest available data.

The red indicates full inundation of seaweed on beaches, while orange means you can expect a moderate portion of the beach covered. Blue is a lower level of impact.

"It's a probability estimate, just like weather," said Dr. Chuanmin Hu, a professor of optical oceanography at the University of South Florida.

Both the Treasure Coast and Miami are labeled orange for moderate, while the rest of Florida is in the blue zone. Hu said while many beach goers may report seeing lots of sargassum on beaches from Jensen to Fort Pierce, it's not much different than the clumps we have been seeing.

"It may change in a month, but this weekend, next weekend, it’s quite similar," said Hu.

He also said it's nothing to be concerned about yet. Sargassum isn't toxic to humans, except in extreme cases, when it builds up on the sand in mounds and starts to rot, emitting stinky, and semi-toxic fumes into the air.

University of South Florida Optical Oceanography Professor Dr. Chuanmin Hu May 26 2023
University of South Florida Optical Oceanography Professor Dr. Chuanmin Hu explain why people should not worry about the sargassum this weekend.

"You do not want to be downwind of sargassum," Hu said.

Still, he said we aren't seeing those levels here yet, and added he didn't expect southeast Florida to see worsening levels in the next few weeks.

"For this weekend I'd say go ahead," Hu said.

Hu said he can't predict yet just how severely the sargassum will hit the Treasure Coast, or when.

“I can’t imagine as time goes by how much of this we will have in the future," said Pilar Awad.

Still Pilar Awad and others said they'd still make the best of the Memorial Day weekend.

"Yeah," said her son, Amun Awad. "'Cause it's just the natural, the natural habitat of the ocean, you know."

"We’re going to the pool actually for Memorial Day to avoid all this," said Brea.

Martin County's spokesperson told WPTV's Kate Hussey if the sargassum does get extreme to the point where it starts to stink, the County will hire a contractor to remove it. However, since that hasn't been a problem yet, it's here to stay due to it's benefits to the environment.