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No sign of St Aubin’s seaweed slime... yet

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WHAT’S big and flat, gets covered by the sea twice a day and when the tide is out in the summer is smothered in a thick layer of green, foul-smelling seaweed?

The answer for decades has been St Aubin’s Bay, but this year there is little sign of the slimy weed, with just a small number of patches forming on the tide line in a few areas.

However, a local expert says Islanders and tourists should make the most of the open expanse of sand between West Park and St Aubin, as the current hot spell and rising sea temperatures mean it is only a matter of time before the bay takes on its seasonal green hue.

Gareth Jeffreys, from the Société Jersiaise’s marine biology group, has been monitoring the annual seaside plague for five years as part of the Island’s efforts to get rid of it.

He says we can thank the Beast from the East – the blast of Siberian weather that hit the British Isles in February and March – for delaying the spread of sea lettuce this year.

‘One of the trigger points for sea lettuce growth is sea temperatures,’ he said. ‘The Beast From the East will have been a likely factor, which is why it is two to three weeks late this year.’

From studying footage from four time-lapse cameras placed around the bay to monitor sea lettuce, Mr Jeffreys says signs indicate that the weed is already starting to bloom. He expects that by the end of the month it will be everywhere.

However, the Island’s director of environmental protection, Dr Tim du Feu, whose team monitor’s water quality, has another theory.

‘Island farmers have used 25% less fertiliser this year during the growing of potatoes,’ said Dr du Feu, who is also a member of the Action For Cleaner Water Group, an alliance between the Environment Department, Jersey Water and farmers to improve water quality.

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‘This has been achieved by more accurate placing of the fertiliser next to the potato tuber using machinery that was part-funded by Growth Housing and Environment [an expanded, new-look department].

‘Nitrate levels in streams have continued the year-on-year downward trend and have fallen by 40% during the past 20 years. The recent reduction in nitrate levels has been mainly due to the close working of officers with the farming industry as part of the Action for Cleaner Water Group.’

The decline in total nitrates entering the bay, he added, had also been helped by a reduction in the treated effluent from the sewage treatment works that flow into St Aubin’s Bay.

Paula Thelwell

By Paula Thelwell
author

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