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Playa Del Carmen Strengthens Sargassum Removal Efforts As Seaweed Makes Landfall

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Batches of sargassum on a number of beaches along the Mexican Caribbean coastline have already been reported this year, and the municipality of Playa del Carmen is doing its best to remove much of it as soon as it appears in the coming months. 

Tropical Caribbean beach landscape panorama with clear turquoise blue water and seaweed sargazo in Playa del Carmen Mexico.

If you’ve traveled to Cancun or elsewhere in the region over the winter, it’s possible that you’ve encountered some (or lots of it) even though it is not yet sargassum high season. That being said, talk of how the state will deal with masses of sargassum along the Mayan Riviera‘s notoriously pristine beaches is ramping up, as tourists undoubtedly want to avoid the smelly brown algae as much as possible.

So, how will cities like Playa del Carmen deal with this issue in 2023? We’ve got all the information travelers like you need to know:

View of a popular beach in Playa del Carmen with warm tropical weather

Temporary Sargassum Collection Points At Playa Del Carmen Beaches

Officials in the city have organized containers where they plan to collect and then temporarily store the sargassum. It was announced earlier this week that the containers are expected to arrive by next week, and the units will be set up at what they are calling “temporary collection points”. This is where the sargassum can more easily be separated and not take as much of the beach sand during the removal process. The seaweed can then be stored in the permanent area, leaving more room in the temporary containers to collect more sargassum whenever it is needed.

The barriers will be installed on the dock side of Playa’s maritime terminal, which they believe will help to intercept masses of sargassum from washing up along the shores. 

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seaweed on sand

This week’s announcement was made by the head of the Federal Maritime Terrestrial Solidarity Zone, María de Lourdes Várguez Ocampo. She also stated that so far this year, over 536 tons of the brown seaweed has been collected along the beaches. For reference, that is a small amount compared to what is expected from the month of April onwards, which is the start of the sargassum high season.

In the past, the city has outsourced the work of collecting the sargassum, but Ocampo has assured that the city’s management of this big task will be sufficient. 

bulldozer tractor with sargassum on beach

Playa Del Carmen Prepared For The Year With New Equipment

Because sargassum removal is an ongoing problem every year, the city wanted to be prepared for 2023 and address the issue before it physically showed up along Playa del Carmen’s beautiful beaches. It was announced in that the city would be getting new equipment to help deal with sargassum removal.

This is following the sargassum removal task force, which was formed earlier in 2022 and consisted of some local government officials, researchers, scientists, as well as local businesses in the tourism industry. Despite the efforts, the Mexican Caribbean’s sargassum situation in 2022 was still the worst year on record, and it’s too soon to tell how this year will go.

Sargassum water

When Is High Sargassum Season In The Mexican Caribbean?

Mass amounts of the smelly brown algae sweeping up on beaches early in the calendar year isn’t very common, as the “high season” for sargassum is typically from April until August, but this time window seems to be lengthening with each coming year.

Last year in Playa del Carmen, the substance appeared in masses as early as late February and early March. At times, it took a few days or longer to get cleaned up on some of the city’s major beaches. The seaweed is such an issue that travelers will sometimes update their vacation and escape to cleaner beaches based on low sargassum levels in the region in an attempt to enjoy the calm Caribbean waters without the annoyance of the smelly seaweed.

sagrassum washing onto shore

With more removal equipment scheduled to arrive and containers being set up along some beaches, the municipality is showing that they are doing what they can right now to strengthen removal efforts for the first sargassum arrivals of the year and into the high season.

wheelbarrow sargassum clean up beach

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Tuesday 14th of February 2023

While they're at it maybe they can do something about the sewage odors. I ask myself did I really pay a few thousand dollars to spend the month of February on this foul smelling beach?


Thursday 9th of February 2023

I think you should stop using “smelly brown algae “ or similar wording to describe sargassum. We have watched it for years and it doesn’t keep from going to the Riviera Maya 3 or 4 times a year. Smelly is not something we experience with this seaweed. I think that type of reference may keep some folks away from the area. Let them come and see if it really smelly.

Terminal preppy

Saturday 11th of February 2023

@Rex, sure keep telling yourself that


Thursday 9th of February 2023

Need a strong coordinated effort with proper equipment much like farmers use in harvesting corn where the seaweed is lifted out of the water and beach area and put directly into large containers and trucked to a holding area for processing and disposal. Not some overpriced conveyor belt filling a bucket that needs to be dumped every minute or two. It should be filling up large containers.


Thursday 9th of February 2023

As long as the wind blows SE or S there will be sargassum blowing in. You need to simply look at the forecast for the wind direction to know if there will be sargassum each day. Saturday and Sunday this week will be Westerly winds.