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Sargassum expected on Coastal Bend beaches this weekend, but it's not a bad thing

Sargassum is a seaweed that originates from the Atlantic Ocean. When in the water, it's a vibrant community that supports animals like fish and sea turtles.

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — If you've been to the beach recently, you might have noticed clumps of seaweed in different spots.

Experts say the seaweed is called sargassum, and it originates from Atlantic Ocean.

University of Texas Marine Science Institute Professor Ken Dunton said that sargassum has been washing up in Port Aransas, since at least when he arrived in the 1980's.

He said the city is prepared for it, using equipment like rakes to clear it up if it comes in large amounts. 

"From what we're hearing, and what I'm seeing online, and imagery that we're seeing and talking to captains that are going offshore, they're probably, they're probably going to see a lot more the next month or so," he said. 

There is a small location population of sargassum in the Coastal Bend, which is currently being seen on beaches. Dunton said sargassum as large as an acre is about 70-80 miles off shore. When it arrives, if left on the beach for about four days, it will start to smell.

"It's not something you want to leave there, you know, two feet thick, covering 30, 40 feet wide, probably not a, not something that people want to see or smell," he said.

But Sargassum does have its benefits too. When in the water, it's a vibrant community that supports animals like fish and sea turtles. Coastal Parks Director Scott Cross said that when it comes on land, it can help with beach health.

"It's part of the natural occurrence of our beaches. Doesn't happen all the time, but it is very beneficial to our beaches. It really does a lot and helps stabilize and trap that sand, which helps build our shoreline," he said. 

Cross said he does not plan to do anything with sargassum on the beach right now. But if it starts coming in large amounts, he said, he might pile up so it can be redistributed in the same general area. It can also be moved to the dunes to create a natural barrier.

"If I have a lot of it, sometimes I'll move it up and down the dune face, where I have no vegetation or I have a blow out in the dune. You know, because that stuff is excellent fertilizer to help grow dune vegetation," he said.

Experts also said sargassum is safe to come in contact with. It is possible for it to create a skin rash because of what grows on it, so be mindful of that when you come to the beach this summer.

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