Clumps of seaweed — usually Sargassum — as well as grasses and other marine algae and organisms that wash ashore have a name. It’s called beach wrack, and although some say it may look or smell unpleasant, it does not create a health risk to beachgoers. In fact, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, it’s “a pivotal part of the beach ecosystem.”
Beach wrack is beneficial to animals and marine habitats in a number of ways —
- It provides vital food for young sea turtles.
- It serves as fodder for crabs, beetles, and other small creatures, which in turn are food for shore birds.
- It’s used by baby birds as camouflage and foraging material.
- It forms the basis for sand dunes; as dunes start, sand blows along the beach and collects along the windward side of the wrack, forming sand dunes, which help to protect the coastline.
Seaweed is constantly present in the Atlantic Ocean and is washed ashore more frequently during sustained onshore winds with seasonal shifts in the Gulf Stream, particularly when the Gulf Stream nudges closer to the coast in the summer. Occasionally, weather conditions exist in which an unusual amount of beach wrack is washed ashore continuously over a period of time. Before you head to the beach, be sure to check PBC Parks’ Beach Conditions page for locations where concentrations may be heavy.
Audubon Florida’s educational presentation in this video provides a good overview of the importance of beach wrack: https://youtu.be/9m8o5ZRcNSI
You can help keep PBC Parks’ beaches clean by becoming an Adopt-A-Park partner, a program that gives participants a sense of park ownership and an outlet to give back to the community by maintaining parks, beaches, and trails through picking up litter, maintaining flower beds, painting, and more. You can also join or organize a beach cleanup. Learn more about volunteering with PBC Parks here: https://discover.pbcgov.org/parks/General/Volunteer.aspx.