GALVESTON, Texas – Do you remember seeing seaweed piles for miles along Galveston beaches about three years ago? Now, the island hardly gets any and experts say that is good and bad.
While some tourists cheer, scientists from Galveston to France worry.
Guests visiting Galveston called their cove of Gulf Coast beach picture perfect Wednesday evening. The Salcido family from San Diego, were on the island for the first time and said its shores feel more open than any they find back home.
“Over there you have to fight for parking and battle to get there more,” said Rebecca Salcido.
One familiar floating bug-a-boo is mostly missing in action in Galveston.
“It feels like you don’t know if it’s seaweed or a jelly fish,” said Delbert Purvis, a tourist from Dallas.
Spring and summer tides usually carry sargassum seaweed. In 2014, visitors saw waist deep piles on beaches.
While the change may help tourism, Texas A&M Galveston marine sciences professor Dr. Tom Linton worries that it signals a change in the Gulf Stream.
Its currents feed the Gulf of Mexico sargassum that's become an important natural nursery keeping baby turtles, shrimp and some 100 species of fish protected, Dr. Linton said.
“If there is something that’s causing it to be reduced, that is a concern,” he added.
The seaweed also helps protect beaches from erosion. Dr. Linton counts charter fishermen and fish stock managers among those vulnerable to negative impacts too.
Though many tourists want their seafood and seaweed-free beach fun, some seem ready to roll with any tide.
“I probably prefer to have the fish,” said beachgoer, Rob Salcido.