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Sargassum: A political issue in Puerto Rico

Authors: Rafael Diaz-Torres*,
Topics: Political Geography, Marine and Coastal Resources, Regional Geography
Keywords: sargassum, Puerto Rico, Caribbean, United States Army Corps of Engineers
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Since 2011, Caribbean coasts have experienced an increase in the arrivals of the algae known as sargassum. While the reasons for this increase in the algae are still being researched by marine scientists, some early conclusions state that the flow of sediments and nutrients into a warmer southern Atlantic Ocean contributes to the development of sargassum in greater amounts. These mass arrivals of sargassum to coasts in the Caribbean have become a growing concern for communities, tourism organizations and public health officials. While some initiatives have been adopted by many Caribbean countries and territories, the island of Puerto Rico has been absent of these collaborative efforts in the region. This work explores the political reasons behind the lack of interest to implement adaptation and mitigation strategies to manage sargassum in Puerto Rico. Besides the absence of a clear public policy from the island’s central government, the colonial condition of the territory also represents an obstacle to develop and implement projects to manage the accumulation of this algae. The lack of a public policy from the United States Army Corps of Engineers continues to hurt Puerto Rico’s possibilities to join the rest of the Caribbean’s countries in the development of regional collaborative efforts to manage sargassum.

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