The Hotels Hope To Prevent The Seaweed From Impacting Their Guests Experience
Hotels in Cancun have begun placing sargassum barriers in preparation for an anticipated surge of problematic seaweed. The news comes days after the local government announced it has also been preparing.
Jesus Almaguer Salazar, the President of the Hotel Association of Cancun, Puerto Morelos and Isla Mujeres confirmed that several hotels started placing their barriers recently in the hopes that early action will have the biggest impact. In previous years, many of the barriers and other methods have only been used when the sargassum arrives in the region, at which point it is too late to stop a lot of it.
As the region returns to the green level and the opportunity to enjoy full operational capacity, local accommodations will be putting a lot of time into ensuring its effects are minimal to the potential millions of travelers moving through.
Current estimates from the University of South Florida and even NASA suggest that the end of March could see a massive arrival of the seaweed which means that easter break visitors could be heavily affected by the unsightly sargassum. According to the same studies, there has been an over 100% increase in sargassum since December, marking an extremely fast growth.
Sargassum is an increasingly big problem for Cancun and the Mexican Caribbean as a whole. Whereas typical seaweed doesn’t affect a whole lot, sargassum is a macro algae, which blooms into gigantic floating islands of seaweed. Technically, it’s very good for the environment when it’s floating out at sea. It provides safe habitats for thousands of fish and other seafaring creatures.
But in the last ten years, sargassum blooms have been increasingly more detrimental. When these giant floating knots of seaweed find shallow waters and then the shore, they blanket the sand. For the environment, it means animals like turtles have major issues laying eggs in the sand and coral reef can be hidden from the sun under huge belts of the weed. Erosion on the beaches from getting rid of it is becoming a larger issue too.
For tourists, it means horrible smells and ruined beach days. The sargassum produces a terrible odor, making it virtually impossible for beachgoers to enjoy their time on the sand.
It can even pose a threat to those swimming. When it floats just off the land, the mass of weed can catch unwitting swimmers’ ankles sending them into a panic and increasing the chance of drowning. Although this is rare, any threat is bad news for tourists.
Hotels have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars over the past few years trying to counter the effects. Most hotels on the beach have tractors that can help pick up the masses of the seaweed and the barriers being placed currently will either stop it from approaching the land or funnel it towards designated “sacrifice” spots. By this, they simply mean they will sacrifice a piece of beach to the sargassum, making it easier to dispose of it.
The navy is also involved and has already begun its own preparations for the incoming sargassum. They have boats and other machinery ready to help stop the problem long before it reaches the shore, as well as planes doing renaissance flights to help track the movements of major belts of seaweed. To understand how large they can be, one belt of sargassum was clocked at over 5000 miles long as it floated through the Atlantic.
It’s been attributed to global warming as well as toxic ocean dumping from Brazil, but scientists generally agree it’s here to stay and it’s a problem Cancun will need to continue fighting.
Those hoping to arrive over the next few months should keep track of any new sargassum deposits and how the area is coping. If the problem isn’t dealt with well, it does have the potential to put a cloud over a vacation.
Hopefully the early preparation this year allows beachgoers throughout the spring and summer to enjoy the Mexican Caribbean, especially now that the region has gone back to the green level.
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