The CRFM is seeking a suitably qualified Belizean to serve as PROJECT ASSISTANT for the Sargassum Products for Climate Resilience Project.
30 November 2023
26 January 2024
Greenhouse trial with liquid organic fertilizer derived from Sargassum (Photo: M. Haughton, CRFM)
Belize City, Thursday, 7 December 2023 (CRFM)—Groundbreaking work has begun in the Caribbean to produce Sargassum-derived liquid fertilizers or plant growth promoters, as well as an organic compost from processed Sargassum, for eventual incorporation into farmer and grower practices in the Caribbean. The Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM), an inter-governmental organization of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), and Plant & Food Research, a New Zealand Crown Research Institute, are leading this initiative, under the Sargassum Products for Climate Resilience in the Caribbean Project, a multiyear project funded by the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
This builds on work undertaken by the CRFM since 2015, to address the persistent problem of recurring Sargassum inundations which have been plaguing the region for the past 12 years. Sargassum blooms continue to adversely affect the coastal ecosystems and economic sectors—such as fisheries and tourism—in many Caribbean countries, and clean-up efforts have been costly. Although Sargassum levels have fluctuated from year to year, the general forecast is for continued high levels of blooms and beaching of Sargassum in the foreseeable future. Climate change and nutrient enrichment of the oceans have been identified as major contributing factors to this phenomenon which has been affecting our region since 2011.
Sargassum inundation across a fishing beach on the island of Saint Lucia (Photo: M. Haughton, CRFM)
“Sargassum is a natural marine living resource that has been abundant in our coastal waters. It is often an unpleasant sight on our otherwise picturesque beaches, and rotting Sargassum heaps are hazardous to humans and marine life and environmental health. We must, therefore, find ways to use the Sargassum while neutralizing any potential negative effects of the heavy metals contained therein. The safe and profitable conversion of Sargassum biomass into innovative products to adapt to climate change and bolster economic resilience will also generate tangible economic and social benefits for local communities and present and future generations across the entire Caribbean,” said Milton Haughton, Executive Director of the CRFM.
The first phase of the project, which focused on testing the Sargassum to better understand how to handle and use it safely, was completed in 2022. This second phase, which commenced early 2023, focuses on product and process development. In May 2023, the CRFM concluded agreements with the University of the West Indies (UWI), Department of Biological and Chemical Sciences, Cave Hill Campus, and the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI), which are providing technical support for joint research and surveys to advance the second phase of the project. During this phase, the project will develop and evaluate liquid fertilizers and compost from Sargassum. The hope is that this initiative will help to protect the marine environment and coastal communities, and create jobs and value-added products, while contributing towards the reduction of the region’s high import bill for fertilizers used by farmers.
There are two very important guiding principles of this project. The first is the application of the precautionary principle which ensures that when there is uncertainty and a risk of harm, we should act with care and caution, guided by the best available scientific information. The second principle encompasses the circular economy approach, which ensures total utilization of the Sargassum to eliminate waste and pollution, which is good for people, business, and the environment. The Sargassum harvested from the sea will, therefore, be used to produce fertilizer, and the residue will be utilized to generate other products such as compost and building materials—all of which will be safe and effective for their intended purposes.
UWI has assisted with the process of producing liquid fertilizers from the Sargassum. CARDI has been conducting a survey of farmers to engender a deeper understanding of how they use fertilizers and their interest in a fertilizer product from Sargassum. This knowledge will enhance strategies to promote the uptake of the Sargassum-derived products for use in the agriculture sector.
CARDI is now completing a study to evaluate the performance of the liquid fertilizers developed with the assistance of UWI on crops under greenhouse conditions. Further studies will be conducted in the field with the assistance of farmers.
Since the commencement of the Sargassum Products for Climate Resilience Project in 2020, the CRFM and Plant & Food Research of New Zealand have worked with partners in Barbados, Belize, Jamaica, and the Dominican Republic, and with specialized laboratories in the United States and New Zealand, to conduct Sargassum raw material safety testing and to review potential products that could be made from the Sargassum.
The final phase of the project, which is due to commence in 2024, will focus on the establishment of a pilot plant to produce liquid organic fertilizer, as well as on outreach and supply chain development, which would entail the dissemination of a workable model to industry stakeholders in the Caribbean. Through continued stakeholder engagement, the project will also gather feedback to guide future work, strengthen relationships with Caribbean enterprises, and develop sustainable pathways for the commercialisation of new Sargassum products.
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In case you missed it, here is the recording of our recent seminar on Sargassum Value Chain Development.
Belize City, Tuesday, 21 February 2023 (CRFM)—Sargassum seaweed influxes have been a bane to the Caribbean since 2011, but the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM) and Plant & Food Research (PFR), a New Zealand government-owned Crown Research Institute, are advancing a regional project aimed at turning Sargassum into innovative products that will create jobs and income as well as contribute to building the region’s climate resilience and mitigating the negative impacts of Sargassum in the region. During 2023, the CRFM and Plant & Food Research —in partnership with other public and private sector institutions in the Caribbean region—will focus on lab-scale work and field trials to develop suitable prototype products from the Sargassum seaweed for commercial use.
A team from the CRFM Secretariat and Plant & Food Research recently visited Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados to meet with key stakeholders as they advance the second phase of the project titled, Developing Sargassum Products for Climate Resilience in the Caribbean.
Milton Haughton, Executive Director of the CRFM said: “Sargassum remains a major problem for our countries, coastal communities, and business enterprises, especially those in the fisheries and tourism sectors operating in the coastal and marine environment. We had a very productive mission to Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago meeting with partners and stakeholders with an interest in creating value-added products from the Sargassum. We are very confident that we can work together with interested partners to develop viable products and generate jobs and income streams for our people from this natural resource (Sargassum) that has been inundating our waters and beaches over the past 12 years. Our focus now is on developing and testing these prototype products and processes using the Sargassum. We will also be developing a product commercialization strategy.”
CRFM Executive Director, Mr. Milton Haughton (right),
Rosie Paterson-Lima, International Development Program Manager at Plant & Food Research (center),
and Beverley Sutherland, Project Coordinator (left)
Rosie Paterson-Lima, International Development Program Manager at Plant & Food Research, said her organisation’s involvement was made possible by funding from the New Zealand Government International Development Cooperation Programme.
“It is exciting for us to work in partnership in the region on this challenge, and to bring our expertise in agronomy, value chain analysis, and commercialisation. Together our goal is to minimise the problems caused by Sargassum by creating viable economic opportunities for the region. We are delighted to have Barbadian Dr Terrell Thompson joining the project delivery team recently as a consultant. Dr Thompson is a chemicals and materials engineer with impressive expertise and experience in the Sargassum industry,” Paterson-Lima said.
The mission spanned 30 January to 11 February 2023. In Trinidad and Tobago, the team met representatives of the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI), the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), the Caribbean Industrial Research Institute (CARIRI), the Engineering Faculty of the University of the West Indies, the Association of Caribbean States, the Caribbean Private Sector Organisation (CPSO), and representatives of the Government of Trinidad and Tobago. In Barbados, the parties met with officials of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries Division, and the National Conservation Commission of the Government of Barbados, UWI - Cave Hill Campus, the European Union, CARDI, UNDP, FAO, the Fisherfolk Organisations and the Samuel Jackman Prescod Institute of Technology. The purpose of these engagements was to share information on the Project and to explore opportunities for collaboration and strengthened partnerships under the project.
The CRFM and Plant & Food Research have successfully completed the first phase of the project, during which they worked with partners in Barbados, Belize, Jamaica, and the Dominican Republic to conduct Sargassum raw material safety testing and review of potential products that could be made from the Sargassum. They are embarking now on the second phase of the project, which is Product and Process Development.
Fishers in Barbados are among stakeholders who have been adversely affected by the Sargassum influxes
Sargassum blooms in the Atlantic have already begun, and they are expected to inundate the Caribbean region by April 2023. The Outlook of 2023 Sargassum blooms in the Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico, released by the University of South Florida Optical Oceanography Lab on 1 February 2023, revealed that, “The overall Sargassum quantity in the Atlantic Ocean doubled from December 2022 to January 2023 (8.7 million tons), again setting a new record (previous January record was 6.5 million tons in 2018).” The outlook noted that this is the second consecutive monthly doubling of Sargassum, previously observed only in 2018, and all indications are that the Sargassum biomass will continue to accumulate and migrate westward over the next several months. Climate change has been identified as one of the major contributing factors to this phenomenon which has been affecting our region—and principally our coastal fishing communities—for the past 12 years.
Sargassum inundation defaces coastline of Saint Lucia fishing community (June 2022)
The CRFM-Plant & Food Research collaboration will identify and use appropriate sustainable technologies for efficient harvesting of Sargassum, according to international best practices. The final phase is outreach and supply chain development, which would entail the dissemination of a model to industry stakeholders and wider Caribbean.
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Belize City, Friday, 15 July 2022 (CRFM)—Delegations from the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM) and Plant and Food Research Limited (PFR) of New Zealand have concluded a month-long tour in the Caribbean, including Cancun, Mexico, to gain firsthand knowledge of how the region has been coping with the persistent Sargassum problem. Incidentally, the mission was taking place as Sargassum influxes for the month of June hit a new historical record, underscoring the urgency of scaling up collaboration and private-public partnerships to convert Sargassum into economically viable, climate resilient products.
The CRFM contingent, comprised by Mr. Milton Haughton - Executive Director, Dr. Sandra Grant - Deputy Executive Director, Dr. Maren Headley - Programme Manager, Fisheries Management and Development, and Mrs. Beverley Sutherland - Project Coordinator, was joined by PFR’s Head of International Development - Dr. Suzie Newman, and her team: Ms. Rosie Paterson-Lima - Program Manager International Development, Mr. Wilson Huang - Senior Commercial Manager, and Dr. Mario Alayon - Scientist & Development Engineer.
This tour marks an important milestone in the New Zealand-funded Sargassum Products for Climate Resilience in the Caribbean project, which seeks to mitigate the environmental and economic impacts of Sargassum seaweed influxes in affected Caribbean countries through the creation of inclusive value chains. The partners are now transitioning from phase 1, which involved raw material safety testing and harvesting operations review, to phase 2, which will focus on product and process development for Sargassum-derived products. Following the mission, the team is accessing the information gathered to formulate a plan of action for phase 2.
The first leg of the mission took the CRFM and PFR teams to Barbados, where they met with Hon. Adrian R. Forde, Rph. - Minister of Environment, National Beautification and the Blue and Green Economy and senior Government officials with responsibility for Blue Economic Growth and Fisheries, individuals from the private sector, and representatives of the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI), the University of the West Indies’ Centre for Resource Management and Environmental Studies (UWI-CERMES), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), between June 8-10, 2022.
Subsequently, the mission traveled to Saint Lucia, where they also met with Hon Jeremiah Norbert, Deputy Speaker of the Lower House of Parliament, and other senior government officials and individuals from the private sector, including the Caribbean Network of Fisherfolk Organisations (CNFO) from June 11-14, 2022. They met with representatives of Sir Arthur Lewis Community College, in addition to community leaders in some of the heavily impacted coastal communities in Vieux Fort, Micoud and Dennery.
On the third leg of the mission, the CRFM and PFR contingents traveled to the Dominican Republic, where they met the District Director of Punta Cana Town – Mr. Ramon Antonio Ramirez, as well as representatives of the Instituto Tecnológico de Santo Domingo and private sector representatives involved in collection and management of Sargassum.
From there, the mission traveled to Belize, where the representatives of the CRFM and PFR met from June 21-26, 2022, with officials of government ministries responsible for Tourism, Agriculture, and Blue Economy, as well as CARDI, the University of Belize, and members of the private sector. While in Belize, the CRFM and PFR mission also traveled to the island of San Pedro for a site visit, to assess the areas that are being affected by Sargassum.
The final leg of the mission was Mexico. During June 26-29, 2022, the representatives of CRFM and PFR visited two (2) private sector companies, one which makes liquid fertilizer and soil enhancer from Sargassum, and the other which manufactures construction supplies from Sargassum.
“We were able to observe firsthand the effects of the Sargassum influx in the countries we visited. This allowed us to better understand the ongoing initiatives to utilize the Sargassum. The mission furthermore enabled us to make some critical connections with both private and public sector partners that will be useful as we move into the second phase of the Project,” said Ms. Sutherland, the Project Coordinator for CRFM.
Based on the information gathered during the tour and the analysis done on the samples that were collected in the first phase of the project, the focus will be on the formulation of liquid fertilizers and construction supplies.
The June 2022 Outlook of Sargassum blooms in the Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico, recently published by the University of South Florida Optical Oceanography Lab said, “…the total Sargassum [in the Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico and Central Atlantic area] amount increased from ~18.8 million tons in May 2022 to ~24.2 million tons in June 2022, thus setting a new historical record.”
Sargassum seaweed has been inundating Caribbean beaches since 2011. (Photo: CRFM 2019)
Sargassum Products for Climate Resilience to mitigate harsh impacts on Caribbean States
BELIZE CITY, 2 MARCH 2021 (CRFM)—The Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM) and Plant & Food Research, a New Zealand Crown Research Institute, will host a virtual training workshop on Wednesday, 3 March 2021. The session—which will be conducted with the assistance of Prof Mona Webber of the Marine Science Centre, UWI, Mona Campus, Jamaica—will focus on techniques for harvesting, handling, species identification and processing of Sargassum seaweed for initial evaluation.
It will be attended by the four target countries for field work, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, and Jamaica, as well as other interested CARICOM States and organisations such as CARDI, CERMES UWI, University of Belize, the Caribbean Network of Fisherfolk Organisation (CNFO) and IAEA.
The training supports the effective implementation of the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade-funded project entitled, Developing Sargassum Products for Climate Resilience in the Caribbean, due to commence in April 2021. In addition to the target countries, other CRFM Member States will benefit either directly or indirectly from the project, which aims to mitigate the environmental and economic impacts of Sargassum seaweed influxes in affected Caribbean countries through the creation of inclusive value chains.
Since 2011, periodic influxes of massive quantities of Sargassum seaweed have been entering Caribbean waters, resulting in substantial economic losses and adverse impacts on human and environmental health.
The Outlook of 2021 Sargassum blooms in the Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico, released by the University of South Florida Optical Oceanography Lab on at the end of February 2021 indicated that, “…the eastern [Caribbean Sea] will likely experience increased amounts of Sargassum in March and April 2021, while some of the Lesser Antilles Islands will continue experiencing beaching events on both their windward leeward beaches." It forecasted that the situation could continue into summer, with the overall bloom intensity possibly like that of 2019.
In September 2020, the CRFM entered into a 3-year collaborative agreement with Plant & Food Research, to address Sargassum seaweed influxes in affected Caribbean countries. Plant & Food Research and the CRFM are collaborating to explore the creation of new technologies and value chains from the Sargassum seaweed. The project aims to develop Sargassum-derived product prototypes and production processes, including a commercialisation strategy to support its marketing.
In September 2020, the CRFM entered into a 3-year collaborative agreement with Plant & Food Research, to address Sargassum seaweed influxes in affected Caribbean countries. Plant & Food Research, a New Zealand Crown Research Institute, and the CRFM, an inter-governmental organization which promotes and facilitates the responsible utilization of the Caribbean's fisheries and other aquatic resources, are collaborating to explore the creation of new technologies and value chains from marine biomass, particularly the Sargassum seaweed.
The overall aim of the project is to mitigate the environmental and economic impacts of Sargassum seaweed influxes in affected Caribbean countries through the creation of inclusive value chains for Sargassum seaweed.
The CRFM has produced a leaflet with further details. View it online below or download a PDF copy HERE.