Cancun and the Mexican Caribbean are heading into a period of peak sargassum levels, in which the greatest amounts of the mostly harmless but smelly seaweed wash up on local beaches. Late July to late August sees the highest quantities of sargassum on Mexican Caribbean shores as authorities ramp up efforts to keep beaches clean.
Sargassum is a naturally-occurring seaweed that washes up on Mexican Caribbean shores starting in March. Sargassum levels typically increase over the summer, when temperatures soar, creating ideal conditions for its propagation. Late July to late August usually sees the highest amount of sargassum on Mexico’s beaches, with local monitoring stations warning residents and tourists about the foul-smelling seaweed.
The local Sargassum Monitoring Network (Red de Monitoreo de Sargazo), issued a notice that over the next week practically the entire coast will see peak levels of sargassum, potentially the highest of the whole season. The monitoring authority notes that the southern parts of Quintana Roo will be most hard-hit by the sargassum wave, affecting places such as Tulum, Puerto Morelos, and Playa del Carmen.
Esteban Amaro, the network’s director, also said that the current hot temperatures are beneficial for the seaweed, meaning sunbathers might be encountering more of the algae on their next beach excursion. The high heat is also a health risk, and last week, public health officials in Tulum advised residents and visitors to take note of important health tips to combat the ongoing period of high heat.
As for Cancun, Esteban Amaro notes that special attention should be paid to the beaches in the southern part of the Hotel Zone, so as to not affect visitors’ high expectations of a perfect holiday.
Although the worst is yet to come, officials from Zofemat Solidaridad, an agency responsible for maintaining public beaches, say that around 200 to 250 tons of sargassum are collected and disposed of each day in the area. The number is likely to grow thanks to the large number of beaches that see a large contingent of workers clearing up sargassum on a daily basis.
It’s important to note that although sargassum may put a damper on visitors’ beach holidays, the seaweed itself is mostly harmless. The main issue posed by the algae has to do with its odor once it starts decomposing. However, in large amounts sargassum may pose a risk for infection, which is why it’s best to stay away from it.
To keep beaches algae-free, municipalities such as Benito Juárez (Canun), and Solidaridad (Playa del Carmen), have ramped up efforts and hired more workers. By joining forces with volunteer organizations and environmental groups, as well as private businesses, the local government hopes to effectively tackle high sargassum levels. Climate change, as well as hot temperatures, have translated into near-record amounts of sargassum this year.
This Is The Current Sargassum Situation In The Mexican Caribbean
According to the latest update by the Sargassum Monitoring Network, which can be found here, 18 beaches currently have excessive seaweed levels. Meanwhile, 20 Mexican Caribbean beaches enjoy low levels, whereas only 4 are completely free of pesky seaweed. Some of the best beaches that are currently sargassum-free include Isla Mujeres Punta Sur, and Chiquilá.
Meanwhile, Cancun’s beaches also currently enjoy low seaweed levels, with Punta Cancun and Cancun Playa Caracol reporting only moderate sargassum levels. Holbox, too, is known for its mangroves that constitute a natural barrier against the algae. On the other hand, the eastern beaches in Cozumel are all reporting excessive sargassum levels, as are the southern beaches of Tulum and those of Playa del Carmen.
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