Record amount of seaweed is choking shores in the Caribbean

Lakes Beach is covered in sargassum in St. Andrew along the east coast of Barbados, Wednesday, July 27, 2022. A record amount of seaweed is smothering Caribbean coasts from Puerto Rico to Barbados as tons of brown algae kill wildlife, choke the tourism industry and release toxic gases. (AP Photo/Kofi Jones)

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) - A record amount of seaweed is smothering Caribbean coasts from Puerto Rico to Barbados as tons of brown algae kill wildlife, choke the tourism industry and release toxic gases.

More than 24 million tons of sargassum blanketed the Atlantic in June, up from 18.8 million tons in May, according to a monthly report published by the University of South Florida's Optical Oceanography Lab that noted "a new historical record."

July saw no decrease of algae in the Caribbean Sea, said Chuanmin Hu, an optical oceanography professor who helps produce the reports.

"I was scared," he recalled feeling when he saw the historic number for June. He noted it was 20% higher than the previous record set in May 2018.

Hu compiled additional data for The Associated Press that showed sargassum levels for the eastern Caribbean at a near record high this year, second only to those reported in July 2018.