Why Galveston Beach Officials Say Seaweed Is Actually A Good Thing

If you're headed down to spend some time on Galveston beaches over the next few days, you'll likely have to step over seaweed along many of the island's stretches of sand. But the Galveston Park Board is trying to convince beach-goers that a little seaweed isn't a bad thing.

It's become a common sight on some Galveston beaches, piles a seaweed that sometimes ruin the experience for visitors expecting clean, sandy beaches. This year has been a light one so far when it comes to seaweed, but the Galveston Park Board has also changed its policy about clearing beaches of all seaweed, or sargassum as it's know.

Kelly de Shaun is the executive director of the park board. 

"When it's a minimal amount of seaweed, just like a little ribbon, a six-inch ribbon that runs laterally along the beach, we're not picking it up anymore because the heavy equipment can be really damaging to the beach. And it's surprising the amount of people who no longer complain about that. To the contrary, we see children down there poking at it and playing in it and of course throwing it at each other and such and I think that that's a healthy approach because while we want the beaches to be clean sargassum is a part of the natural eco-system as well."

de Shaun says Galveston beaches are also getting an assist from researchers at Texas A&M University who are helping predict when big patches of seaweed are expected to wash ashore. 

"What they've done is they've been able to take satellite imagery on a regular basis, identify the sargassum patches when they're out in the sea and then they notify us about when those patches are going to land. It's allowed us then to ramp-up any staffing or equipment needs that we have before the landings arrive to Galveston. It's been very helpful."

The seaweed that is removed from the beaches is typically simply moved higher, along with some sand, to create dunes that protect against erosion.  

Bio photo of Jack Williams

Jack Williams

Director of News Programming

News Director Jack Williams has been with Houston Public Radio since August of 2000. He's also a reporter and anchor for Houston Public Radio's local All Things Considered segments...