When you go to the beach, you expect to see some seaweed. But over the past few years, there has been an increase of a non-native (also known as invasive) species of red seaweed named Heterosiphonia japonica.
When it decays, this seaweed smells like rotten eggs.
The seaweed looks like red strings or hairs, and has spread quickly. Warmer ocean waters this year are believed to be helping this seaweed grow and spread.
The thing is this seaweed is usually seen near Japan. So how did it get all the way over here???
It found its way to Europe in the 1980s, and is believed to have traveled here recently on cargo ships. It was first noticed in the U.S. in Rhode Island in 2009.
There are a few problems: this seaweed could kill off creatures native to our ocean waters. It also clogs lobster traps and the smell discourages tourists, which hurts both the fishing industry and the economy.
Whenever a non-native species, such as this seaweed, moves in, it can thrive and quickly get out of control. That’s because there are either no predators (or not enough) to eat it, and at the same time it takes nutrients from the water, killing off native plants and animals. This is why if you go to another country, they may be very strict about plants or animals going in or out. But as we can see, sometimes a non-native species still gets here. In this case, it was probably unintentional, but it can have lasting consequences. Here, sea urchins eat the seaweed, but there aren’t enough of them to eat it before it spreads.
Another issue is what to do with it. Officials aren’t allowed to push the seaweed out to sea. Some have tried towing it away in dump trucks, but the seaweed spreads so quickly that it makes no difference- it just keeps growing.
Hopefully scientists can find a solution soon.
Written by 22News Storm Team intern Eileen Carmody