Take a look at almost any beach in Maine around this time of year –late August, early September – and you’re likely to see a LOT of seaweed.
I don’t know anyone who loves the stuff – if you sit or walk near it, those little sand fleas, if that’s what they are, make you think that black flies are still around and are on the beach of allplaces. After a couple of days in the sun, the weed begins to stink.
We all know that some birds feed off the bugs in the weed, that it enriches nearby areas, increases biodiversity, and maybe prevents erosion.
But seaweed heating up on the beach can allow disease causing bacteria to persist and even multiply in the seaweed mats as well as in the neighboring sand. Let’s face it – it can be a health risk to beach goers and even affect the water quality.
So what do you do with it? Some people think it’s sacred – no way can you take that stuff off the beach. But they’re wrong.
The Maine Department of Environmental Protection allows towns with DEP guidance to remove seaweed if it presents a clear and present danger to beach goers’ health or seriously affects a town’s economy. Some or all of it can be taken away, while maintaining the general health of the beach.
Like anything, too much is, well too much – you need a balanced approach. Ogunquit rakes the seaweed off the main bathing area, while preserving a natural beach area further up the beach – and if the weed needs to be removed – then the town can with DEP approval or as long as the town only removes it occasionally.