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Cancun and Playa Del Carmen Battle Seaweed Problem

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Thanks to a joint effort from tourism operators, local authorities, the navy, researchers and even NASA; there are a number of protocols to watch and manage the seasonal seaweed challenges that the Mexican Caribbean faces. Keeping a handle on the situation to ensure that the beautiful white sandy beaches are kept in pristine shape is a priority for all organizations involved.

As The Cancun Sun recently reported this year’s sargassum (seaweed) season is well underway.  Visitors may see special seaweed harvesting ships and barriers in the water. Resort workers as well as local authorities use tractors to collect the seaweed while trucks are constantly hauling away loads of brown, stinky seaweed daily from the coastlines.

Between Nasa and the Sargasso Monitoring Network of Quintana Roo there is plenty of tracking happening well before the sargassum season even begins. According to scientific data collected from Nasa, there are 5.1 million metric tons of Sargassum seaweed blanketing the sea, some of which will end up spread out across the Mexican Caribbean shorelines. 

The director of the Sargasso Monitoring Network of Quintana Roo, Esteban Amaro has recently explained that their monitoring and forecasting for the sargassum season begins at the end of each calendar year. “At the end of each season in November or December, we begin monitoring the west coast of Africa so that we can begin to forecast how the next sargassum seaweed season is going to be. This forecasting is incredibly accurate and helps us be more and more prepared each season.” He said. 

This season is expected to be lower than the record breaking 2019 season.

Between June 1st and September 1st 2020 there was over 11,000 tons of seaweed removed from the beaches of Quintana Roo. There have been over 4000 meters of seaweed barriers installed which help stop the seaweed from reaching the shores. These barriers have ongoing monitoring stations and ships come through daily to harvest and remove the seaweed.

The decomposing seaweed isn’t the prettiest and honestly doesn’t smell the greatest but it’s harmless and it’s not going to ruin your vacation. Proceed with caution when swimming near seaweed patches as it can become entangled in your legs.

There are still areas of beautiful blue waters that are free from the floating blankets of seaweed that you can enjoy a refreshing swim in, you might just need to take a short walk down the beach. Avoid areas where the water appears to be dark green as that is where seaweed has built up in the water which could pose a hazard. Be safe, understanding and enjoy what these beautiful beaches still have to offer!

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