With the Sargassum season approaching, Cancun and Quintana Roo officials are concerned over a 44 square km patch of seaweed floating off the coast of Africa. Sargassum is a brown type of seaweed that collects on the white sand beaches of the Mexican Caribbean every year. In recent years the Sargassum has continued to get worse and scientists believe the phenomenon is caused by climate change.
According to Nasa, 5.1 million metric tons of Sargassum has accumulated in a large patch and some will inevitably make its way towards Cancun in the months of June, July and August when the state of Quintana Roo says the seaweed season it at its worst.
Quintana Roo is aggressive in keeping its beaches pristine and has heavily invested in preventative and cleaning measures. In 2020, over 4250 meters of barriers to contain the seaweed were installed.
During the 2020 Sargassum season, June, July, and August were the months with the largest collection of sargassum in the municipalities of Tulum, Playa del Carmen, Cancun.
In June, a total of 4,082 tons were collected, while in July 5,294 and August 2,168 tons of the brown seaweed were removed from the Beaches of Quintana Roo.
According to the Mexicanist six seaweed harvesting ships were designed and built By Mexican Navy engineers and naval personnel. These ships were designed to remove the brown seaweed as well as provide research on Sargassum.
Cancun has declared itself ready to battle the 2021 seaweed season. Municipal President Mara Lezama said that despite the fact that studies by the Mexican Navy indicate that this year could be a lower amount of seaweed to the coasts of Mexican Caribbean, the government will be prepared for the worse case scenario and continue to keep beaches free of the seaweed.
Tractors are a common site on Quintana Roo beaches during the Sargassum season as a joint effort between the local authorities, the navy and tourism operators including resorts work to keep the beaches clear for tourists.
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