The Sargassum Watch System (SaWS) uses satellite data and numerical models to detect and track pelagic Sargassum in near-real time. Sargassum is a pelagic seaweed that floats on the ocean surface and is abundant in the Intra-Americas Sea, the Atlantic, and along the coast of Europe. In the ocean, it provides an important habitat for many marine animals. On shore, it serves as fertilizer for sand dunes and biomass for food and fuel. Excessive amounts of Sargassum on beaches in populated areas can cause problems, however. Sargassum decomposition on beaches smells bad, attracts insects, smothers turtle nesting sites, and causes fish kills, in addition to diminishing tourism. Annual Sargassum inundation events are currently occurring annually along the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean coasts. SaWS monitors Sargassum distribution and abundance in the ocean to aid the study of ocean ecology, help fisheries management, and forecast Sargassum beaching events.
Co-sponsors: OCTO (OpenChannels, The Skimmer, MPA News) and the EBM Tools Network (co-coordinated by OCTO and NatureServe)