Friday, August 3, 2012

Every time we walk along a beach some ancient urge disturbs us so that we find ourselves shedding shoes and garments or scavenging among seaweed and whitened timbers like the homesick refugees of a long war. - Loren Eiseley

Sargassum seaweed has piled up on Blind Pass Beach in Englewood, Florida.

Seaweed is piling up on the beaches of SWFL.  It's called sargassum or aka "gulfweed" and it's typically found out in the deep blue waters of the Gulf of Mexico.  Tropical Storm Debby not only rearranged our beaches with the storm erosion but she is now redecorating with a scratchy, matted carpet of sargassum seaweed.  It don't smell so good either. Found mostly in the Atlantic Ocean and  greatly concentrated in the Sargasso Sea, Sargassum seaweed's name originated from it's grape-like appearance which Portuguese sailor's called salgazo.

 Huge rafts of sargassum naturally float about a mile off the shores of our SWFL beaches.  It acts as a transport system of sorts floating thousands of miles around the Gulf Stream current.  Marine life off all kinds take refuge and find survival in sargassum weed.   Sargassum is the destination of baby turtle hatchlings once they dig their way out of the nest, make it past red ants, raccoons, & seagulls - crawl towards the water over a sandy path too often filled with man-made obstacles like sand castles, beach chars, & litter left on the beach.  Once in the water the little guys swim like crazy towards the sargassam, hopefully not catching the hungry eye of a grouper or pelican. After safely making it to the sargassam, the seaweed raft will be great camouflage and provide a floating baby nursery for the turtles for the next six or so years.

Most county beaches have crews that operate the machinery to rake up and remove  the dried stinky seaweed. It just so happens that turtle nesting season being under way so the heavy machinery - not a good idea.  The sargassum weed is a smelly nuisance but unlike red tide won't affect your breathing.  Knowing the diverse ecosystem that the floating traveling gulfweed supports it's worth a little inconvenience at the beach knowing we have a healthy sea ready to take care of our juvenile fish, baby seabirds, and determined turtle hatching's.
 

The Sargasso Sea provides habitats, spawning areas, migration pathways and feeding grounds to a diverse assortment of flora and fauna, including endemic, endangered, and commercially important species. It has been called a "floating golden rainforest".



It's the little grape-like air-filled bladders on the Sargassum seaweed that cause it to float.


The seaweed didn't stop the shark's tooth collectors from their search.  Blind Pass Beach has had it's share of shell piles since Tropical Storm Debby as well.

Really... I know I was talking about seaweed but how could I not share this little cutie?  Duke is a local celebrity on Manasota Key beaches.  He thinks he's incognito in those sunglasses.
Since turtle season started around May the Coastal Wildlife Club's turtle patrol has counted 2,850 actual turtle nests and 2,876 false crawls.
The turtle nest is in the middle of the dune with the orange tape.  The baby turtles have to make it across all the dried sargassum to enter the water.