Local News

Washed-up Seaweed Tangles with Beach Visitors

Posted August 2, 2000 7:00 a.m. EDT

— Sharksandriptideshave made some beach trips to the North Carolina coast a bummer this summer. The newest problem has been drifting ashore this week.

Clumps of ugly brown seaweed, called sargassum are beginning to wash ashore, creating a thick layer on the beach.

Beachgoers do not like what they are seeing -- or feeling.

One visitor from Arkansas says, "It gets tangled around my legs." Another says, "It's really hard. It's uncomfortable. It's scratchy-feeling."

The seaweed is collecting at Atlantic Beach and all along the North Carolina and South Carolina coasts. It fills the surf, keeping swimmers out of the water.

Sargassum is abundant from the Sargasso Sea, an extremely calm area of water just south of Bermuda. Recent calm weather may have brought the seaweed to the East Coast. Animals eat sargassum, and shallow-water marine life lives among the floating canopies of seaweed.

Many towns are coordinating efforts to clear the sargassum, calling oninmate crewsandN.C. Department of Transportationequipment.

Heavy machinery is out of the question, because the equipment could endanger loggerhead turtle nests and piping plowers, a federally protected bird.

Once the seaweed is cleared, state officials would then have to decide what to do with it. From staff and wire reports