Why We Need To Stop Complaining About Seaweed

And please stop hauling it off our beaches

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Many of us consider the tiniest bit of seaweed tickling their feet at Golden Bay to be the bane of their existence. But before we call for the removal of every last fleck, let's take a moment to understand how important it really is.

The seagrass beds found in our waters are, first and foremost, very important for many species of fish. They act as breeding, nursing and feeding grounds and thus many marine species depend on them.  

The reason we find so much seaweed on our beaches is best explained when you look at them as being similar to land plants. Apart from providing a huge (and essential) chunk of the oxygen found in our seas, seagrass beds also shed their leaves in cycles. 

Some of these leaves either drift off into deeper waters or drift inwards, towards the shore. And it’s these drifters that make it to the beach that drive people up the wall. 

These clusters of floating leaves either form patches in shallow waters (resulting in endless 'OMG something just touched my feet, and hours of removing it from your basement) or wash up to form those large piles, or banquettes, we see along the water’s edge. Although perfectly natural, these piles of seaweed do emit a slight smell, which is why so many beach managements remove the banquettes to increase tourist attraction. 

But this is where we're making a huge mistake.

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PHOTO: THE TIMES / 2016

The piles of seaweed are a natural protection from sand being eroded into the sea. This means without the piles of seaweed, our beaches will disappear a lot faster than we'd like. Making this even worse is the fact that the bulldozers used to remove the seaweed also dig up, and discard, huge piles of sand in the process.

If that wasn't enough, the washed-up seaweed has algae that adds nutrients to the sands, and a whole host of important microorganisms grow in the rolling hills of seaweed.

At the end of the day, seaweed washing up into our shallow waters and onto our beach is just part of a natural cycle and honestly, it's a small price to pay for the massive benefits that we gain. So enjoy the tickles, and protect our beaches from unnecessary interventions.

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PHOTO: THE TIMES / 2016

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Written By

Tikka Pisani

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