Specialists say barriers are not a solution to the influx of sargassum
During a virtual discussion, organized by INTEC, they agreed that efforts should focus on identifying new ways to take advantage of macroalgae in productive activity
SANTO DOMINGO. –Although the placement of barriers to contain sargassum in the sea and prevent it from reaching the beaches seems a quick and effective solution, this action would be “very dangerous” because, if it is not removed before the first 72 hours, it could rot and limiting the amount of light that passes to and even depositing on coral reefs, creating a new environmental problem.
This was explained by environmentalist Rafael Méndez Tejeda, from the University of Puerto Rico, who alerted the Dominican authorities to take this into account when designing efficient methods for the collection of macroalgae, when exposing during the discussion “The Massive Inflows of Sargasso to the Dominican Republic: Experiences and Challenges”Organized by the Instituto Tecnológico de Santo Domingo (INTEC) ”.
Méndez Tejeda highlighted as necessary that, when establishing sargassum barriers, a collection plan is also put into operation as soon as possible.
Regarding the experiences with the collection, Jake Kheel, from the Fundación Grupo Punta Cana, explained that the logistics and maintenance aspects of the equipment must be taken into account.
Among the harvesting options, he mentioned the SOS Carbon team, which has a simple technology and has the advantage that it can be used in fishing boats. With this equipment it is possible to collect in different areas, different drafts and depths, also apply it to look for sargassum that have escaped the barriers and work very close to the coasts.
In this sense, Andrés Bisonó, from SOS Carbon, explained that the company has developed a profitable and sustainable solution system for the collection of sargassum, which seeks to benefit the fishermen of the area.
The virtual meeting was organized by the Center for Environmental Management (CEGA) of INTEC and the Doctoral Program of Environmental Sciences of INTEC and was broadcast on the university's YouTube channel.
Turning sargassum into an opportunity
When discussing the "Methane efficiency in the biodigestion of sargassum", the chemical engineer Atilio de Frías, from the Federico Henríquez y Carvajal University (UFHEC), explained that macroalgae, such as sargassum, have shown good potential for the production of biogas through anaerobic digestion.
Yessica Castro Estévez, from the APEC University, presented the project "Anaerobic codigestion of sargassum to obtain biogas" and Yaset Rodríguez, a professor at INTEC, presented an investigation in which it is proposed that the collection and use of sargassum depends to a great extent of its chemical composition, for which it proposed to work on the quality standards of sargassum for its possible use as a biofertilizer and in animal feed.
Meanwhile, Ulises Jáuregui-Haza, INTEC research professor, addressed the "Prospects for obtaining activated carbon from sargassum and its applications", and explained that natural raw materials and agricultural waste are one of the sources used to obtain activated carbon, which is one of the adsorbents used in industries and for environmental purposes for water purification.
In addition, the virtual event had the participation of Miguel Cohn, president of the VIDAAGUA Ecological Foundation, who said that the country is obliged to preserve the ecological system and achieve positive results for its sustainable development, and cited the use of sargassum for the purpose of obtain artistic paper, bioblocks for construction and handicrafts, as examples of sustainable use of this algae
Meanwhile, Rolando Liranzo, from INTEC, stated that regional collaboration and integration should be carried out that includes efforts to measure the essential ocean variables that influence the movement of sargassum in the Caribbean area, develop an early warning and detection system to regional scale.
At the close, Zoraida Zapata, from the Ministry of the Environment, pointed out that, within the main strategies for the protection of ecosystems against sargassum, the Government has developed regulatory instruments for the management and final disposal of the volumes of sargassum collected.
In addition, Zapata emphasized that the Environment provides assistance and authorizations for the installation of anti-sargassum barriers, collection and disposal to the sectors and there is greater openness to proposals for public-private alliances for the use of sargassum in different economic activities.