Since 2011, a giant bloom of seaweed has developed in the central Atlantic Ocean nearly every spring and summer.
The floating brown seaweed forms the “Great Atlantic Sargassum Belt” and stretches from the west coast of Africa to the Gulf of Mexico.
In March 2023, University of South Florida researchers found that the estimated 13 million tons of Sargassum floating in the belt was the largest of any March on record.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) are currently monitoring the Sargassum bloom. They have regular coordination calls to share the current status, forecasts, and new reports of Sargassum.
The FWC takes the lead in monitoring efforts of Florida’s coastal waters, while DEP coordinates with municipalities throughout Florida to identify the best way to manage Sargassum that may come inshore or on their beaches, whether that be to integrate it into the beach, haul it for disposal, or compost it.
The Florida DEP’s Coastal Construction Control Line Program (CCCL) regulates beach cleaning and other activities on beaches seaward of an established CCCL.
To evaluate a seaweed removal effort, information is needed on the amount and location of debris, beach conditions, locations and conditions of construction access, type of equipment, times and dates of cleanup activities, and sea turtle nesting activities. DEP Program staff can assist with development of Best Management Practices to expedite authorization and ensure projects avoid potential harm to the beach and dune system and sea turtles.
• Consultation with Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) staff is required for specific recommendations on all cleanups within the sea turtle nesting season of March 1st through Oct. 31 for Brevard, Indian River, St. Lucie, Martin, Palm Beach and Broward counties, and May 1 through Oct. 31 for all others.
• Clean-up activities performed with hand tools, and with no mechanical equipment, sand removal, excavation or impacts to dune vegetation, is an exempt activity that does not require a CCCL permit.
• Landfilling (De-watered Sargassum can be accepted at permitted Class I landfills, in accordance with Chapter 62-701, F.A.C and Chapter 403, F.S.)
• Composting (Facilities composting Sargassum seaweed must obtain a Source-Separated Organics Processing Facility (SOPF) Registration in accordance with Rule 62-709.320(3), F.A.C.) Department Contact: DEP CCCL Program \ CCCL@FloridaDEP.gov \ www.FloridaDEP.gov/CCCL \ 850-245-8570
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