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Riviera Maya Hotels Working On Permanent Solution To Sargassum Problem 

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This year has been a particularly bad year for sargassum in the Riviera Maya region, but now hotels in the area are coming together to work on a permanent solution to the sargassum problem.  During the last year, various groups have been formed to address the situation and try to come up with solutions, but little has been done to truly solve the issue.  Barriers, sargassum collection ships, and beach cleaning efforts have offered temporary relief from sargassum but are not permanent solutions. 

Cancun Sargassum

Sargassum is a type of brown seaweed that washes in from far out to sea and onto the beaches in the Mexican Caribbean.  It has been around for decades but only in recent years has it become such a pressing problem all along the Caribbean coast.  While it is harmless in a health sense, it puts off a very unpleasant smell as it decomposes, taking away from the overall beach experience when it is present. 

Sargassum on Beach

During the busiest seasons in Cancun and the rest of the Riviera Maya this year, beaches were covered with sargassum.  Despite the constant presence of the brown, smelly seaweed, though, tourists continued to visit these places in numbers not seen since prior to the pandemic.  In some cases, the sargassum was so bad it would drive tourists to other activities, like sightseeing or visiting cenotes.   

Sargassum Barrier

Cenotes are naturally made sinkholes that form out of limestone rock and then fill with groundwater from below and rain from above.  There are hundreds of cenotes in the area, and each is a little bit different from the next.  While some cenotes even ended up with sargassum in them this past year, for the most part, they are a sargassum-free option when the beaches are covered. 

Sargassum with Hotels in Background

Back in April, there was a sargassum task force formed that included scientists, Navy members, and government officials.  The group was tasked with not only finding better ways to remove sargassum from the area’s beaches but also with coming up with a warning system and finding solutions for keeping it from reaching the beaches.  Despite the efforts of the task force, though, the problem has persisted, and the only relief that has come has been due to breaks in the sargassum season. 

family walking on beach

Now, tourism officials are coming together to see if they can come up with a more permanent solution to the sargassum problem, but this time they are exploring options for using the seaweed.  According to the president of the Association of Hotels of the Riviera Maya, they are seeking to collect and use the sargassum for things like fertilizers.  The project would cost around $100 million, which, when you consider the cost of constant removal, really doesn’t sound that bad. 

sargassum from above

Some of the money would be used to aid companies who want to collect sargassum in setting up the equipment to do so.  The money would be managed by a trust that would ensure that the resources are being used properly and provide transparency.  The trust would be made up of experts that would also advise on solutions to the sargassum problem. 

Sargassum Sea

While it’s very unlikely that sargassum will just stop washing ashore someday, that isn’t to say that a man-made solution cannot be found to limit its effects in popular tourist destinations like Cancun.  Finding a way to not only keep it from washing up on the beaches but utilizing it at the same time is a great way to solve the problem.  If the group working on that solution gets the money they need to get started, it may not be too long before we can start to see more beaches sargassum-free

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