The Riviera Maya just received some fantastic news. Sargassum levels have dropped significantly since February, with current levels being just a fifth of what they were a month ago.
This is a huge relief for both tourists and locals, as sargassum has been a major issue for the region, with each year becoming progressively worse.
This huge reduction is being seen as a sign that the at-sea diversion tactics are finally paying off for the region. Although it is too early to light the fireworks and unfurl the banners just yet.
Sargassum Free Areas
It’s rare this time of year for authorities to give the news that many areas of the Riviera Maya will be sargassum free. Cancun, Puerto Morelos, and Cozumel are all expected to see fantastically low levels of sargassum reach the shore. So little that many areas are expecting no clean-up operation at all.
While Tulum and Playa Del Carmen will see slightly increased amounts compared to these other regions, the sargassum that will make landfall is expected to be speedily removed.
In February, sargassum levels were recorded at over 27,000 tons. Meanwhile, in March so far, just over 6,000 tons have been recorded, showing a 78% decrease. This has meant the authorities have changed the sargassum monitoring level from category 7 (very abundant) to category 2 (very low).
What Is Sargassum?
Sargassum is a type of brown algae that’s commonly found in the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea. While it plays an important role in the marine ecosystem providing food and shelter for various species of fish and other marine life, it can also cause problems when it washes up on shore in large quantities.
In recent years, Cancun and the Riviera Maya have been hit hard by large amounts of sargassum washing up on their famous beaches.
This has been a huge headache for both tourists and locals, as well as becoming an unwanted financial burden for those resorts forced to employ clean-up crews.
The sargassum build-up can produce a strong, unpleasant odor, making the beaches and waters less appealing to tourists.
It’s not difficult to see the issue with one of the world’s greatest beach destinations being blanketed by this natural phenomenon.
What’s Being Done?
To combat this problem, the Riviera Maya authorities and tourism industry have been working tirelessly to remove the seaweed once it makes landfall.
Hardworking cleaning operatives have become a common sight on the beaches, using everything from high-tech beach cleaning vehicles to pitchforks and wheelbarrows. There’s no shortage of commitment to solving this issue.
Furthermore, to prevent it from washing ashore, the Mexican Navy has been playing an important role. This has involved using boats to collect the seaweed offshore and dragging it into tidal streams that pull it out into the open ocean.
As well as this, the most problematic areas at sea have received high-tech barrier systems. These structures stop much of the sargassum from ever reaching the Riviera Maya coastline.
But even with these huge efforts at sea, large amounts have still been making their way to the coast. Showing just how big of an issue sargassum has become.
Why This Is Surprising
This is news the area wasn’t expecting so soon, sargassum season came especially early this year, and there was a worry this might be the worst year yet.
Normally sargassum levels don’t show this big of a reduction until the month of August. Unsurprisingly, fingers are being crossed with April fast approaching. In the past, this has been the month when sargassum season arrives.
So, while this reduction is welcome, some questions remain unanswered. Has the peak sargassum season changed, or is this just a calm before the storm?
Enjoy It While It’s Good
While this issue is a constant in the minds of the tourism industry and local authorities, travelers should be safe in the knowledge that for the next few weeks at least, sargassum won’t be as big of an issue for those excited about their beach vacation.
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