Energy & Environment

Massive seaweed blob unlikely to majorly affect Galveston, other Texas beaches, researcher says

Large rotting piles of sargassum — a specific type of seaweed — could form on beaches along the Atlantic Ocean over the coming months.


Sargassum along the beaches of Key West on March 28, 2023.

An enormous buildup of seaweed forming in the Atlantic Ocean is threatening marine life and the health of beach-goers along the Gulf Coast, according to researchers at Texas A&M University.

Dr. Peter Morton, an associate research scientist at Texas A&M, said large rotting piles of sargassum — a specific type of seaweed — are expected to form on beaches along the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico over the coming months.

Morton added that the extreme amount of sargassum could prevent sea turtles from safely laying their eggs and pose possible health problems for residents near the coast.

“There’s a lot of human and marine life that will be impacted by this material, even if it doesn’t actually wash up on the beach,” Morton said. “If it gets close enough to the coast, it could have some pretty intense consequences.”

The sheer amount of sargassum that’s already formed in the Atlantic Ocean — more than 10 millions tons — has already broken records, Morton said. He added that the abnormal growth is likely being caused by a nutrient imbalance in the ocean.

“We think that there are a combination of factors that are providing this sargassum material with excessive nutrients that are unprecedented,” Morton said.

As of now, Morton says there’s no guarantee whether the seaweed will make its way to the beaches of Galveston since its difficult to predict an accurate path.

“It’s almost like trying to predict the path of hurricanes. You don’t always know when they’re going to hit or where they’re going to hit,” Morton said. “It might end up anywhere along the Caribbean, anywhere along the Gulf of Mexico, especially Florida, the Atlantic coast — those are prime targets for where this material might just wash ashore in huge amounts.”

Lucio Vasquez

Lucio Vasquez

Newscast Producer

Lucio Vasquez is a newscast producer at Houston Public Media, NPR’s affiliate station in Houston, Texas. Over the last two years, he's covered a wide range of topics, from politics and immigration to culture and the arts. Lately, Lucio has focused his reporting primarily on public safety and criminal justice...

More Information