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Keys Look To Local Solutions For Widespread Problem - Sargassum

Nancy Klingener
Robert Moser is hoping the village of Islamorada will figure out a way to remove sargassum and protect sea turtle nests at the same time.

Anyone who's been to the beach in South Florida or the Caribbean in recent months has probably seen — or smelled — sargassum piled up on shore. The algae is hitting record levels.

In the Keys, some want their local governments to address the problem.

Robert Moser's family has had a place in Islamorda since the 1970s. He's seen sargassum come ashore before. But not like this year.

"We're always living with it, it's just this is an unprecedented amount of sargassum that's been washing up on the shores," he said. "We've never seen it. It's 10 times the amount I've ever seen before."

Moser recently appealed to the Islamorada Village Council for help and they promised to see what they could do. But the issue is especially tricky because the beach Moser's talking about has sea turtle nests.

Islamorada has strict rules about cleaning the beaches so those nests are protected. Now village officials say they will look into how other waterfront communities with turtle nesting handle beach cleaning and consider a test area with monitoring of the nests.

Moser worries about how the hatchlings will make their way through mounds of sargassum — it's piled a couple feet high in some places.

"I certainly wouldn't want to be the turtle that crawls through that," he said.

Credit Nancy Klingener / WLRN
Robert Moser says the sargassum on the beach in Islamorada is 'ten times' worse than he's ever seen it.

Monroe County's tourism agency is including questions about sargassum in its regular visitor surveys. At least one county commissioner says she wants a study aimed at finding out how the seaweed is affecting tourism.

Monroe County is also advising residents to look into weed control devices to keep the algae from getting into canals — as long as they follow all the rules for working on waterways.

Moser says the sargassum is affecting more than just tourism in the Keys. He says it could impact property values, as well as quality of life for those who live here.

"We're homeowners and we're paying our real estate taxes," he said. "And we just want a better community and better health and better environment."

Nancy Klingener was WLRN's Florida Keys reporter until July 2022.
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