Problem

In recent years, the Caribbean region has faced challenges from oil spills and an influx of floating sargassum seaweed. Large-scale oil spill incidents have included an April 2017 spill at Pointe-à-Pierre, Trinidad and Tobago and a July 2017 oil spill in Kingston Harbor, Jamaica. Illegal dumping of oil-contaminated waste by ships operating in the region is also a common occurrence. An increase in the frequency and volume of sargassum beachings and coastal overabundance has caused another challenge for the region with mats preventing the deployment and retrieval of fishing gear and clogging popular beaches, harbors and bays.

Project

IOCARIBE of IOC UNESCO, its GOOS Regional Alliance IOCARIBE-GOOS and GEO Blue Planet are working with partner organizations and stakeholders to develop a multi-hazard information and forecasting system for the Wider Caribbean. The project will first focus on sargassum and oil spills and expand to include additional hazards as identified by local stakeholders. 

The objective of the information service will be to provide a publicly available monitoring platform and alerting system for oil spills and sargassum based on publicly available data (e.g. satellite data and in situ data from countries with open data sharing policies). The service will initially be based on existing technologies and activities, working to augment and improve the framework for information management and delivery and mechanisms for the region and demonstrate the utility of ocean observations and products. 

Kick Off Workshop 

A kick off workshop of 40 experts from 15 countries was held in May of this year to discuss sargassum and oil spill monitoring in the Caribbean and Adjacent regions. The participants included representatives from various United Nations entities, academia, governments, private companies and international initiatives.

The workshop was organized by IOCARIBE of IOC UNESCO and its Global Ocean Observing System Regional Alliance, IOCARIBE-GOOS, and the GEO Blue Planet Initiative, and hosted by the Ministry of Education of Mexico and Mexico National Council of Sciences.

Workshop Report

Ongoing and Upcoming Activities  

The project will be implemented in two phases with Phase I (2018 – 2019) and phase two corresponding to year (2020 – 2021). The expected outcomes of phases I and II are outlined below.

Phase I (2018 – 2019)

  • Identification of local user communities who are privy to the Cartagena Convention and/or have a steak or interest in receiving alerts on sargassum events in the region.
  • Identification of local user communities who are privy to the Cartagena Convention and/or have a steak or interest in receiving alerts on oil spills in the region.
  • Identification of the state-of-the-art and methodology development for sargassum and oil identification and tracking.
  • A functioning prototype service (to be hosted at NOAA CoastWatch with contributions from working group members) that delivers alerts for sargassum and oil spills in the Caribbean and adjacent regions to identified user communities.
  • Identify options for regional coordinating body with legal responsibility and overall political support to operate the service in the medium to long term.

Phase II (2019 – 2021)

  • Assessment: evaluation of the performance of the prototype and implemented algorithms.
  • Development and implementation of a citizen science application for reporting of oil spills and sargassum.
  • Training of local experts on the analysis of satellite imagery for sargassum and oil spills.  
  • Incorporation of a modeling component of the service.
  • Transition of the service to an operational service by a regional coordinating body (to be identified/developed)
Project Team

Group 1: Project Coordination & Support 

Name Organisation
Cesar Toro IOCARIBE of IOC, Columbia 
Doug Wilson IOCARIBE GOOS, US
Emily Smail GEO Blue Planet; NOAA; University of Maryland, US
Samy Djavidnia GEO Blue Planet; EMSA, Portugal
Gianluca Luraschi GEO Blue Planet; EMSA; Portugal 
Frank Muller-Karger MBON; University of South Florida, US 

Group 2: User Engagement and Outreach 

Name Organisation
Shelly-Ann Cox CERMES, University of University of the West Indies, Barbados 
José Eduardo Martinelli Filho Universidade Federal do Pará, Brazil 
Karen Elizabeth Day CLS Group, UK
Brigitta I. van Tussenbroek National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), Mexico 
Jean-Philippe Marechal Nova Blue Environment, Martinique 
David Robin Organisation of East Caribbean States (OECS), Saint Lucia 
Marck Oduber Departamento Meteorologico Aruba, Aruba
Chris Corbin UN Environment, Cartagena Convention Secretariat, Jamacia 
Ileana Lopez UN Environment Cartagena Convention Secretariat, Jamacia
Alyson Myers Fearless Fund, US

Group 3: Data and Product Development 

Name Organisation
Joaquin Trinanes NOAA CoastWatch, USA
Karen Elizabeth Day CLS Group, UK
Marc Lucas CLS Group, France 
Chuanmin Hu University of South Florida, USA
Mike Wurl Texas A&M University - Galveston, US
Eduardo Cuevas Universidad Autonoma del Carmen, Mexico 
Abigail Uribe Universidad Autonoma del Carmen, Mexico
Medina Ishmael-Lalla Coastal Dynamics, Ltd., Trinidad 
Jean-Philippe Marechal Nova Blue Environment, Martinique
Daniel Torre RPS Group, US
Eric Comerma RPS Group, US

Group 4: System Design and Integration 

Name Organisation
Gianluca Luraschi GEO Blue Planet, EMSA, Portugal
Samy Djavidnia GEO Blue Planet, EMSA, Portugal
Marc Lucas CLS Group, France 
Joaquin Trinanes NOAA CoastWatch, US

Group 5: Capacity Building and Training 

Name Organisation
José Eduardo Martinelli Filho Universidade Federal do Pará, Brazil 
Karen Elizabeth Day CLS Group, France
Frank Muller-Karger MBON, University of South Florida, US
Medina Ishmael-Lalla Coastal Dynamics Ltd., Trinidad
Jean-Philippe Marechal Nova Blue Environment, Martinique 
Chris Corbin  UN Environment, Cartagena Convention Secretariat, Jamacia 
Ileana Lopez UN Environment, Cartagena Convention Secretariat, Jamacia 
Alyson Myers Fearless Fund, US