Project Valorisation of Sargassum in the Dutch Caribbean: turning the brown tide into a golden opportunity


E. Duurzame en veilige Noorzee, oceanen en binnenwateren

MMIP primair
E2. Natuur-inclusieve landbouw, visserij en waterbeheer in Caribisch Nederland

MMIP secundair

Startdatum project

Einddatum project

Ana López Contreras


Status project

Samenvatting project
Massive tides of Sargassum seaweed have become a recurring event in the Caribbean Sea. When washed ashore, Sargassum starts to decompose, resulting in the release of toxic hydrogen sulfide (H2S), which causes major environmental, health and economic problems in the area1. Not only are these recurrent Sargassum beaching events threatening already fragile and often endangered coastal ecosystems, such as coral reefs, mangroves and seagrass beds, they also disrupt the livelihoods of communities, especially those associated with the tourism and fishing sectors1. Although, it is widely recognized that Sargassum has potential to be used as fertilizer, compost or biofuel, Sargassum value chains are still non-existing, mostly due to issues related to uneven appearances of Sargassum blooms, contaminant ions with heavy metals, and lack of appropriate Sargassum harvesting techniques.
The goal of this 1 year project is to perform a desk study to develop a Sargassum plan, based on literature research and experimental data on Sargassum composition. This study will identify possible solutions to the environmental and economic problems caused by the massive Sargassum beaching in the Dutch Caribbean islands. Given the multidisciplinary character of the proposed research, our consortium consists of four Wageningen research institutes, namely Wageningen Food and Bio-based Research (involved in valorization studies), Wageningen Marine Research (involved in environmental impact studies, ecosystem services, and coastal management), Wageningen Economic Research (involved in environmental and economic assessment of valorization chains), and Wageningen Food Safety Research (involved in analysis of biochemical elements). Local partners in Bonaire are OLB and Stinapa. In the US, the organisation Fearless Funds collaborates by supplying samples. The Dutch TNO and NIOZ institutes are involved as well.

Doel van het project
MMIP A1 Verminderen gebruik meststoffen, en betere benutting nutriënten
The feasibility of producing Sargassum-based organic fertilizers is studied, which would provide a more sustainable alternative to traditional fertilizers that need to be imported. Moreover, by cleaning the ocean from Sargassum, nutrients stored in Sargassum will not leak into the coastal waters during decomposition, which benefits corals which thrive in nutrient-poor waters.

MMIP B6 E12D Biogrondstoffen uit de blauwe ruimte
Although this MMIP is primarily targeted on the North Sea, experiences in this project benefit the development of new seaweed-based products and value-chains.

MMIP E4 Overige zeeën en oceanen (incl. winning van grondstoffen uit oceanen)
This project investigates the feasibility of harvesting resources from the ocean, for application in feed and the biobased economy

One of the goals formulated in the KIA is that in 2030 the Fisheries, agriculture, tourism and water management should be in balance with Nature and contribute to the supply local supply of food/feed and to the economy

Relatie met missie/motivatie
The main motivation for this project is to find opportunities for the valorisation of pelagic Sargassum from massive tides into organic fertilizers or other products that contribute to make the Dutch Caribbean Islands more sustainable. In addition, by harvesting the Sargassum biomass and prevent the beaching events, environmental benefits are expected.

Geplande resultaten
The result of this project is a report in which the state-fo-the art of the knowledge regarding Sargassum blooms is summarized and used as a base to identify possible solutions to the environmental and economic problems caused by the massive Sargassum beaching in the Dutch Caribbean islands. The composition of several samples of Sargassum, collected at different locations, has been determined, as these data are of importance to define possible applications of the biomass.