Mexico : Cancun Braces For Worst Sargassum Seaweed Season In Five Years

New reports are suggesting that Quintana Roo’s sargassum season could be the worst in five years, worrying the tourist industry. Tens of thousands of tons of seaweed have already been deposited on beaches across the Caribbean. Sargassum is a brown type of seaweed that is known for accumulating on Cancun beaches during the spring and summer months.

The National Autonomous University Of Mexico has been following the sargassum since it first began appearing in large quantities back in 2014. The levels steadily increased, peaking in around 2018/2019 before showing signs of a slight dip in 2020. There is some speculation that this may have been attributed to the pandemic and the drop in carbon usage across the planet that came with it.

However, 2022 is seeing deposit rates and volumes that are higher than those in 2018. At least 32 thousand tons have been forecasted to arrive on Quintana Roo’s beaches over the coming weeks- an extremely high volume.

Sadly, the state is unable to keep up with the deposits despite its best efforts. Multiple methods are used in the fight against sargassum. Early detection is captured using drones, hot air balloons, and planes as well as satellite imagery from universities that study the natural phenomenon. It was hoped that the early detection would allow the navy to retrieve large amounts of the seaweed before it hit the shore, but multiple problems have surfaced preventing that from happening.

The Navy released 26 ships from Chetumal two weeks ago with the sole purpose of dealing with the sargassum, but poor weather is hampering the efforts. At least two of those ships are sargacerro ships, large vessels designed to collect masses of seaweed far out at sea. In theory, the high volumes these ships could pick up can make life much easier, but each year the ships are having a decreasing impact on the effort.

According to the statistics, 2020 saw the Navy pull only 4% of the seaweed collected from the ocean. 3% of the collected sargassum in 2021 was collected from the sea. 2022’s collection rate is down at 1%, meaning that 99% of all the seaweed reaching the Mexican Caribbean is being collected manually by workers on the beach.

The amount of workers needed to clear the beaches is severely hampering businesses’ bottom lines. Most hotels reported considerable drops in profit despite having extremely strong years in terms of occupancy. The amount being spent to hire people to clean the beaches in the morning is eating into profit margins, and when combined with remaining COVID restrictions like masks, enhanced cleaning, and other precautions it could spell rate increases for tourists.

For those unaware of sargassum, it may seem like a small problem. In reality, it’s one of the biggest issues facing the Caribbean. The seaweed forms into massive island-like tangles far out in the Atlantic Ocean, and drifts on ocean currents towards the Caribbean. At sea, it poses virtually no problems for the tourism industry and is actually an important ecosystem for many small sea creatures.

When it approaches land, it becomes more complicated. When it reaches the shallows, it transforms the typically crystal blue waters of the Mexican Caribbean into a murky brown, ruining the aesthetic that so many travel to the region for. On the sand, it piles up as high as a meter, having a similar impact as the brown water.

The biggest problem is the smell. Once on land, the sargassum begins to break down and produces a putrid sulfur-like smell in the process. Any tourists nearby avoid it, and beaches are often empty when the deposits are heavier.

Many tourists go as far as canceling their vacations if they’re aware of large deposits as the beach is such an integral part of the experience.

Source / Fuente :  6th May 2022


Rosa Elisa Rodríguez Martínez - UNAM Puerto Morelos
Rosa Elisa Rodríguez Martínez – UNAM Puerto Morelos
  • Destacaron las científicas Rosa Elisa Rodríguez Martínez y Brigitta Ine van Tussenbroek en la conferencia «Arribazones de sargazo en el Caribe Mexicano”
  • Ofrecida por el gobierno de Quintana Roo en el marco del día Mundial de la Tierra

Chetumal.- En el marco del Día Mundial de la Tierra el gobierno de Quintana Roo presidido por Carlos Joaquín a través de la Secretaría de Ecología y Medio Ambiente (SEMA), en coordinación con el Instituto de Ciencias del Mar y Limnología UNAM de Puerto Morelos, ofreció la conferencia magistral «Arribazones de sargazo en el Caribe Mexicano”, impartida las científicas Rosa Elisa Rodríguez Martínez y Brigitta Ine van Tussenbroek.

Rosa Elisa Rodríguez Martínez, durante la conferencia de las Jornadas de Educación Ambiental “Reconecta con la Naturaleza” resaltó que, es prioritario destinar más recursos y protección integral para la atención del sargazo y evitar implicaciones económicas y ecológicas. “Hasta ahora -dijo Rodríguez- hay avances en México, pero son insuficientes por la magnitud del problema que ocasiona el alga marina”.

Rodríguez Martínez puntualizó que, hay probabilidades que a futuro lleguen otro tipo de algas a las costas (ha sucedido en otras partes del mundo) y se puede empezar a perder los ecosistemas y afectar a las pesquerías. La científica recomendó que desde casa iniciemos acciones para reducir el cambio climático y la contaminación al planeta, de lo contrario este tipo de problemática continuará.

Brigitta Ine van Tussenbroek acotó que el sargazo es un problema complejo, no hay solución sencilla, se requieren muchos recursos, mucha voluntad política. Vivimos -dijo- en un lugar increíble, con un recurso invaluable: el mar, el sol y el azul turquesa del caribe que era gratuito, no nos costaba, ahora sí, es necesario destinar los recursos para preservar los ecosistemas, de lo contrario se van a perder. Una vez que colapsen – sentenció Ine van Tussenbroek- ya no hay cuenta de reinicio. Brigitta hizo un llamado al igual que su antecesora a sumar esfuerzos para que cada uno colabore al cuidado del planeta.

La Subsecretaría de Política Ambiental de la SEMA, al invitar a todas y todos los participantes a fomentar el equilibrio entre las necesidades económicas, sociales y ambientales y futuras, reafirmando el desarrollo sostenible; recordó el trabajo permanente que realiza la SEMA junto con Ayuntamientos y la Secretaría de Marina (SEMAR) para combatir el fenómeno.

Fuente/Source : QUEQUI 22 de Abril 2022

Playa del Carmen Prisoners Can Reduce Jail Time By Cleaning Seaweed Off Beaches For Tourists

There’s a pretty good chance that Cancun beaches in general will be filled with massive amounts of seaweed in the coming weeks. As reports indicate that large amounts of the foul smelling seaweed known as sargassum are slowly, but steadily making their way towards the shore. In Playa del Carmen authorities are trying to come up with creative ways to build up enough manpower to clean the local beaches. One of these solutions that they’ve come up with involves giving minor infractors the possibility of picking up sargassum as a form of community service. Doing so in an effort to avoid jail time.

The initiative that is allowing people to avoid jail time contemplates will only apply to those who have committed “administrative infractions”. These administrative infractions are things like urinating in public, littering and consuming alcoholic beverages, on public roads. To put it simply, pretty much all of the minor infractions that tend to land rowdy tourists in the slammer, will now be payable through this form of community service.

It’ll ultimately be up to the judge whether a particular infraction can be paid in this manner. Local judges approved of this form of punishment in recent weeks. It was actually the Zomefat (the organization responsible for cleaning the beaches) that proposed this idea to Playa del Carmen judges. The director of the Zomefat institute, Lourdes Vargues Ocampo, had this to say about the initiative.

“We talked to the civic judges a week ago to propose this initiative of having people do community service instead of having to pay other types of fines. The decision to approve the initiative was made unilaterally. Many judges showed a keen interest in this idea.”

This Type of Community Service Eliminates Potential Fines or Jail Time
The director of Zomefat would go on to clarify that as things stand right now folks who opt to provide this community service will not be charged extra fines, or have to spend time behind bars to further pay their debt to society. The judges have the power to assign a specific amount of community service hours to infractors. Which they must complete in order to be properly released. There have already been quite a few people that have chosen this route. Lourdes Vargues made those numbers public saying,

“Sunday we had 15 people, (doing community service), Monday there were 11, and Tuesday there were 7. In doing this type of work they are able to meet the sanctions that the judges impose on them. This is not a form of forced labor. These people are not criminals, they are just folks who commited minor infractions.”

There Are Other Ways To Join A Brigade To Clean Up The Beaches
You don’t necessarily have to commit a crime to be on a brigade responsible for cleaning up beaches. In fact, infractors who are part of these brigades are the ones wearing the bright orange vests. To distinguish themselves as community service workers. While the rest of the folks also picking up Sargassum may very well be getting paid for the job that they’re doing.

The Zomefat organization seems to be incredibly understaffed. So much so that they are offering a 9,000 MXN ( around 450 dollars) monthly salary to anyone willing to work cleaning up Playa del Carmen beaches alongside minor infractors. That may not seem like much to a lot of people. To put things into context though, the average salary that a Mexican worker makes is around 7,000 MXN per month. With a slight increase over the average salary, and the addition of community service workers Zomefat is hoping to create at least another 50-person team to clean up Playa del Carmen beaches.

Source: The Cancun Sun April 2022