Charter boat companies concerned about persistent seaweed problem

Along Space Coast, since early May, seaweed has been piling up. The seaweed is brown, area businesses are concerned it will start affecting their green.

Marine scientists call it “sargassum.”  The way they track it is with satellites. This year, there’s just as much as last year -- possibly more, although no official numbers are available at the time of posting.

The University of South Florida studies the sea-weed blooms. The university even has a grant from NASA to track the sargassum and try to determine if humans are causing the seaweed spikes. One theory is nitrogen levels are up, likely from fertilizer and sewage runoff.

“A lot of cursewords have been thrown around this year because of the stuff,” said

Tyler Vollmer.Vollmer isn’t concerned with the science; he’s concerned with his bottom line. He’s a charter boat captain and he says the whole industry is being affected. The seaweed is so thick, fishing lines aren't going into the water or they’re hooking onto clumps.

“So picture a wheat field that’s just been harvested or a big patch of woods that’s just been mowed, it’s everywhere,” Vollmer said.

According to Floridas Ocean Alliance, Florida coastal counties contribute more than 500 billion to the states economy annually.  About 230,000 jobs in Florida are connected to the ocean. Charter boat companies are part of that sector.

So far, Fired Up Charters hasn’t had any cancelations, because of the seaweed, but the fear is, if the sargassum doesn't disperse soon, it could be a tough June.

“I’ve struggled a little bit more as far as catching fish because we can not get baits out.” Vollmer said.