Caribbean sargassum phenomenon: complexities of communicating
Patrick McConney and Hazel A. Oxenford
Centre for Resource Management and Environmental Sciences (CERMES)
University of the West Indies, Cave Hill, Barbados
Vol. 3, Issue 2, 2020. DOI: 10.33277/cesare/003.002/02
In 2011 unprecedented massive influxes of pelagic sargassum seaweed took the Caribbean completely by surprise. The floating sargassum disrupted fishing operations, impacted fish catches, and caused significant hardship to fisherfolk. Stranded sargassum covered beaches and the rotting weed produced pungent smells threatening tourism and invoking difficult and expensive coastal clean-ups. Several years later the Caribbean is still struggling to come to terms with how to manage this new and continuing threat, which is also potentially a huge source of raw material for innovation and entrepreneurship opportunities. Communication has been a key element in this struggle to respond and adapt to sargassum. Exchanging information among a broad range of government, civil society, private sector, academic and other stakeholders has been an ongoing challenge. Mobilising knowledge has been key from the start, and science communication remains a cross-cutting and very transdisciplinary process. We examine some of the lessons learned from the communication associated with sargassum influxes since 2011. There is no clear science-policy interface for decision-making on sargassum. Uncertainties surrounding sargassum ecology, oceanography, biochemistry, economics, medical and social science all test the status and communication of science among Caribbean stakeholders. The drivers of information sharing, the credibility of both popular and scientific sources, their reach to diverse audiences through networks, and several other factors combine to determine information flows.
Sargassum, Knowledge Uncertainty, Science, Policy, Information