Every year, the Texas coastline and the Gulf of Mexico are affected by sargassum landings. Sargassum is a type of brown seaweed that originates in the Sargasso Sea, a region of the North Atlantic Ocean, and travels the Atlantic by currents. The Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea often see the results of sargassum blooms when the seaweed makes landing on the beaches in these areas. Warm water and extra nutrients cause larger blooms of sargassum, creating large free-floating mats.
These sargassum mats become home, food, breeding ground, and nursery habitat for many species of marine animals. Upon landing on the beach, the sargassum provides sand with the ability to build up and further protect from erosion. For these reasons, the Park Board will only relocate sargassum in times of extreme inundation and when the threshold outlined by the permit is met.
The Park Board is the only entity on the island with the granted authority to relocate sargassum off the beaches in federal jurisdiction and was the first entity to hold a permit of this nature as a result of the extreme sargassum inundation in 2014.
The permit issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers can be found using the following permit identification number: SWG-2014-00448
As this is a 5-year permit, the Park Board is currently working to renew this permit with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The Park Board will only use this permit in times of extreme inundation and strictly follows the guidelines within the permit to ensure compliance at all times.
Seaweed Emergency Relocation Program
To empower local entities to partake in its removal, the Park Board’s Coastal Zone Management Department has a permitting program referred to as the Seaweed Emergency Relocation Program. The overarching goal of the Seaweed Emergency Relocation Program is to enhance preparedness to be able to respond to an emergency seaweed event that could have lasting impacts on the Island’s tourism industry, such as the Summer of Seaweed 2014.
The permitting process associated with seaweed cleanup is extensive, and there are risks of fines if the permits are violated.
2023 Seaweed Emergency Relocation Program Timeline
January 21st – Informational Meeting at WGIPOA
February 1st – Online Application for 2023 season OPENS
February – Application Workshop via Zoom (recording will be accessible afterward)
May 31st – Online Application for 2023 season CLOSES
December 2023 – Refunds, if applicable, sent for the 2023 season