Heavy Deposits Across Quintana Roo Signal A Rough Sargassum Season
The Mexican Navy has sent more than half of its sargassum collection fleet out into the coastal waters of Quintana Roo. The state is set to see a heavy sargassum seaweed season.
Six of the Navy’s eleven ships have set sail from their base port in the capital, Chetumal to begin the seaweed collection process. The aim of these boats is to stop the sargassum before it ever reaches the shore, reducing the need for local hotel workers and other groups to collect it from the beach.
The Navy is also in the process of installing sargassum barriers at strategic points along the coast. They are close to the beach and are designed to catch the bulk of the sargassum that gets past the ships. However, the early arrival of huge amounts of seaweed has put the Navy on the back foot.
In Puerto Morelos, Mahahual, and Playa del Carmen, they’ve installed 300 anchors, but so far only 450 meters of barrier. Tulum, Isla Mujeres, and Cozumel won’t see work starting until the second week in April.
Several of the beaches have already been hit hard by the sargassum. Tonnes of the unpleasant macroalgae have been left on beaches up and down the coast, leaving hotels and other businesses scrambling to deal with the problem. The state’s sargassum index currently has 44 beaches in Quintana Roo designated as having excessive sargassum, 10 with a moderate presence, 22 with a very low presence, and only four with no presence.
As much as 2500 tonnes of sargassum has already been collected across the state.
Nature continues to be Quintana Roo’s greatest adversary when ensuring the enjoyment of tourists. The excessive gang violence taking place just a short distance from the hotels does little to deter most tourists who know it’s unlikely to affect them. But sargassum drives tourists from the beach.
Many visitors cancel plans if they’re aware that there are heavy deposits in the region. If a vacation is intended to be spent relaxing at the beach, many will view their time in Cancun or beyond as a waste of money.
Despite the government claiming they were ready, the deposits this year have blatantly taken them off guard. Easter Week is quickly approaching and 1.2 million visitors are anticipated in those few days alone. Hotels are approaching full occupancy and the beaches will be packed. For those same beaches to be covered in sargassum would be disastrous for the tourism industry.
At a time when Cancun wants to set itself apart from its competition, a natural problem that it struggles to cope with could be a huge factor in many tourists’ decisions going forward.
The seaweed thrives in warmer water, and with sea temperatures rising every year it’s only going to get worse in the coming seasons.
For those unaware of sargassum, it’s a brown seaweed that grows at sea, forming massive island like tangles that float across the Atlantic Ocean. Oceanic drifts pull the seaweed towards the Caribbean where it begins causing issues for the tourist industry.
When it makes it to the shore, the sargassum produces an unpleasant sulfur-like smell that makes it extremely tough to spend much time in the area. The smell alone is enough to keep most tourists away from the beach. Unfortunately, the unsightly brown mass ruins the pristine aesthetic of the Mexican Caribbean. Once perfectly clear blue waters look murky and the typically white sand is covered in piles often up to a meter high.
Tourists flock to the Caribbean for the beaches, and sargassum can and does ruin vacations regularly. The government must find a way to deal with the increasing volume of seaweed before it sees a dip in tourists.
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