Oil Threatens Gulf’s Sargassum

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.

The Gulf of Mexico’s sargassum, known locally as Gulfweed, is a marine seaweed that floats at the surface, providing vital nursery grounds for much of the marine life of these waters. The Gulf’s sargassum sea is the second largest on Earth after the Sargasso Sea, which circulates in the center of the North Atlantic Gyre. This video and article from the Mobile Press-Register tells the story of sargassum, and its terrible vulnerability to oil.

The floating seaweed amounts to the most ephemeral of the Gulf’s aquatic habitats, gathering in patches that range from the size of a backyard pool to swaths measured in hundreds of acres. It drifts at the mercy of wind and tides and collects along the offshore rip lines where different currents meet. Sometimes, it gets pushed ashore, where it rots and stinks, upsetting beachgoers. The same forces that push sargassum patches around in the Gulf are now pushing oil slicks and emulsified goop the consistency of Hershey’s syrup. It is inevitable that the two will meet. When they do, scientists say, the sargassum will die.

A day in the sargassum

DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily bluster—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily bluster—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate