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The Impact of Pelagic Sargassum on the Livelihoods of Fishers on Ghana’s Coast

Sargassum is a genus of brown seaweed. The species fluitans and natans are unique because they spend their life cycle floating on the ocean, never attaching to the sea floor. In 2009 the first reports emerged of pelagic sargassum sightings off the coast of Ghana. Densities have increased annually ever since. In early March 2023, large quantities have again arrived on the shores of the Western Region of the country. Pelagic sargassum is beneficial in lots of ways. Marine species such as eels, white marlin and dolphin fish depend on it for spawning grounds in the Sargasso Sea. Commercial fish species including tuna depend on it for food. But problems arise when large quantities are experienced near and on the shorelines of coastal communities. Algal and seaweed blooms are becoming more common in seas and oceans worldwide, both far offshore and nearshore. There is only limited evidence of a link between pelagic sargassum blooms and climate change, but warming oceans do seem to be one cause of the rise in other harmful algal blooms in coastal areas. The pelagic sargassum off Ghana’s coast is affecting communities’ ability to fish and use their beaches.