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Padre Island beaches see copious amounts of sargassum on its shores

Posted at 8:48 PM, May 17, 2023
and last updated 2023-05-18 06:57:45-04

NORTH PADRE ISLAND, Texas — When tourists go to Padre Island, many expect to see beautiful sandy beaches where they can immerse themselves in nature. However, sometimes nature's presence can be overwhelming for some who want to lay in the sand when there's an influx of seaweed washed up on shore.

The enormous patch of seaweed covering area beaches is called sargassum, with much of it could be coming from a 5,000-mile blob of seaweed that floated across the Atlantic from Africa.

It may not make for a picture-perfect view, but most visitors are still able to enjoy their day near the water.

"It was surprising to see so much, but we were pretty unaffected by it," Morgan McCammon said. "When we were in the water, it was a little gross when it was washing up against us, but it hasn't been a super big deal for us."

McCammon was visiting Padre Island from Austin, and she brought her friend Anna Drewmo from Illinois.

"It's a little end-of-school-year trip. It's been fun!" Drewmo said.

According to Scott Cross, the director of Nueces County Coastal Parks, sargassum is beneficial for the environment.

"It helps to stabilize our shorelines because it's got such great sand-trapping capabilities. The birds like to forage through it too," Cross said.

In 2003 the United States banned the commercial harvesting of sargassum within U.S. waters. In 2002, sargassum was designated an essential fish habitat by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). That designation was issued to promote its protection and conservation.

Sargassum also helps build up dune systems and protects it from erosion. This summer, Cross said the Coastal Bend can expect its presence to be a common sight. Because it is considered harmless, Cross said humans should let nature run its course.

"It serves a purpose. And you know, some of the erosion we've seen after Hurricane Hanna, it helps and it's a good thing. I don't want to mess with it. I want to keep it where it's at," he said.

People are encouraged to help keep beaches clean by throwing away trash. If possible, wildlife officials are also encouraging people to separate debris from sargassum.

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