Sargassum has been a problem in major resorts of the Mexican Caribbean for almost a decade. But this summer season is bringing larger quantities than normal to these favorite tourist destinations. Last weekend alone, it was reported that over 2,000 tons of sargassum arrived in Mexican Caribbean coastal resorts.
Each year sees the same battle between nature’s delivery of the sulfurous brown seaweed, and local efforts to remove it. It is a daily struggle for hordes of hotel workers and municipal employees who arrive early to begin the neverending clearing of the ugly, rotting sargassum by hand, using beach tractors to remove it from sight.
For tourists who are drawn to the region for its pristine beaches, the sargassum is a worry. Although harmless, it’s unsightly, smells bad, and spoils the picture-perfect expectations that visitors have on arrival. This causes headaches for hotel owners and other local businesses who are dependent on tourism for their income.
Where Is The Sargassum Problem the Worst? Barely any of the 475km stretch of the Mexican Caribbean coastline has been spared in this wave of sargassum, which it’s believed originated on islands between Cuba and the Yucatan.
Tulum, Playa del Carmen, and other destinations in southern Quintana Roo are seeing wave after wave of the ‘brown invasion’ being swept ashore each day. Organizations monitoring the movement and volume of sargassum report there are around 12,000 tons currently in the vicinity of Quintana Roo.
Esteban Amaro from the Sargasso Monitoring Network said earlier this week: “20% has already landed on the Quintana Roo coast in the last three days…of the almost 12,500 tons that the Navy said it had detected…15 to 20% has already landed.”
Are Any Areas Free Of Sargassum?
There are some Mexican Caribbean destinations that are less affected by sargassum than the worst-hit areas to the south.
Playa Norte on Isla Mujeres is often touted as the place to go when coastal sargassum levels are soaring, because of prevailing ocean currents and the fact the beach is north-facing, meaning winds are less likely to wash the seaweed ashore. And although Isla Mujeres does have sargassum on its beaches in this current wave, it’s one of the better destinations to avoid the seaweed.
Also experiencing less sargassum are Isla Holbox, the west coast of Cozumel, and some parts of Cancun.
What Is Being Done to Prevent Sargassum On The Beaches?
Although there is little chance of stopping all the sargassum coming ashore, resorts have been quick off the mark in hiring additional staff to remove it when it does.
Tulum, for example, has hired an additional 50 beach cleaners for the next two months.
Cancun, which has already removed as much sargassum in 2021 as the entire 2020 season, has also brought in additional workers to support the clearing of beaches.
In Playa del Carmen, an extensive range of measures are being taken, including the use of naval boats to collect the seaweed offshore and installing 1,500 meters of barriers to prevent sargassum from reaching the beaches.
However, despite all the negative press sargassum is receiving, there may be some hope. A number of companies have expressed an interest in harvesting the seaweed to use for alternative purposes. Authorities are currently looking at the legal aspects of this, but should it go ahead, it could help generate a positive outcome from what has been a particularly difficult situation to date.
How Can I Check The Sargassum Situation At My Resort?
If you’re considering a vacation to the Mexican Caribbean coast, or are already booked to visit, you’ll likely want to know the sargassum situation in your resort.
One way of doing this is through a website, Sargassum Monitoring, which is providing free, up-to-date information on the sargassum levels of all Mexican Caribbean beaches.
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