The protection and management of the Sargasso Sea:The golden floating rainforest of the Atlantic Ocean-Summary Science and Supporting Evidence Case
The Sargasso Sea is a haven of biodiversity and there is growing recognition of the crucial role it plays in the wider North Atlantic ecosystem as habitat, foraging and spawning grounds, and as a migratory corridor. The Sargasso Sea supports a range of endemic species and plays a critical role in supporting the life cycle of a number of threatened and endangered species such as the Porbeagle shark, the American and the European eel, as well as billfish, tuna and several species of turtle, migratory birds and cetaceans. There is emerging recognition of the crucial role it plays in the wider ecosystem ranging from the Atlantic to the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico.
- The Sargassum mats are home to many endemic species and provide a protective ‘nursery’ for juvenile fish and turtles.
- Endangered European and American eels migrate to the Sargasso to breed. Wahoo, tuna and other pelagic fish forage in and migrate through the Sea, as do a number of whale species, notably sperm whales and humpbacks.
- This system is under increasing pressure by myriad human uses that threaten both the habitat and the species the Sargasso supports.
Just as the Sargasso Sea supports a number of species, it is also faced with several stressors that threaten the long-term viability and health of the ecosystem.
Some of these threats may include:
- Oil, bilge and ballast water discharge from ships
- Concentrations of non-biodegradable plastic waste from ship and land-based sources
- Negative impacts of fishing (e.g. bycatch and habitat impacts)
- Harvesting of Sargassum algae for fertilizer and bio fuel
- Seabed mining
- Climate change
- Ocean acidification
The Alliance continues to work to better understand the extent to which these, and other, threats impact the Sargasso to develop a roadmap for increased protections.