After the recent lull in sargassum reaching the Riviera Maya’s shores, the situation has unfortunately taken a turn for the worse.
The director of the Sargasso Monitoring Network, Esteban Amaro, has announced that the spring season is shaping up to be one of the heaviest yet, with 560 miles (900 km) of coastline at serious risk of extreme sargassum buildup.
How Much We Can Expect
The authorities and non-governmental organizations in the Riviera Maya are expecting as much as 650,000 tons of sargassum to reach the coast — with few areas being spared from the arrival of this unwelcome guest.
That is no small number, with Esteban Amaro describing it as a “world of sargassum”. But that is just a fraction of the sargassum currently recorded at sea, with an unimaginable 13 million tons estimated to be accumulating together in the Sargasso Sea by the University of Florida.
With just 5% of the sargassum expected to reach the shore under the forecasted weather and current patterns, it is a reality that a freak change in either of these (entirely possible with the unpredictability of the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea) could increase that percentage.
Where Will It Make Landfall?
The current situation is that 39 out of 100 beaches in northern Quintana Roo currently have high levels of sargassum, thanks to a large patch of it making its way all the way from Africa to the Riviera Maya coastline.
But this isn’t the worst to come. As mentioned before, there is an area of 560 miles (900 km) that is expected to see huge buildups.
That’s almost as big a distance as between New York City and Charlotte, North Carolina.
Unfortunately, that means it’s unlikely anywhere in the Riviera Maya will manage to avoid this vacation-threatening natural phenomenon.
The areas expecting the highest concentration of sargassum are:
- Riviera Maya
- Puerto Morelos
When Will It Be Most Extreme?
Sargassum has been washing up in the Riviera Maya since January this year, much earlier than in previous years, although so far, its cleanup has been manageable.
The area then saw a welcome reduction in the amount reaching the shore in March, an unfortunately short-lived piece of good news.
While levels are now rising again, with areas seeing “huge levels” once more, the worst is yet to come. The summer season of July and August brings the perfect storm of conditions for sargassum to reach the Riviera Maya.
Is A Beach Vacation Off The Table?
This news can paint a negative picture of tourists’ chances of a beach vacation in the Riviera Maya, but all is not lost.
In the past, sargassum has ended many travelers’ vacations, especially in the early days. Sargassum has been an issue here since 2011, with each year getting progressively worse.
But, while the early years saw no real response due to the surprise arrival of this smelly seaweed, the authorities and tourism industry have begun to turn the tables on this negative addition to the Riviera Maya.
The levels expected are now closely monitored, and the authorities’ response is kept in line with the forecast. At sea, the Mexican Navy operates specialist vessels which use a drag-net system to redirect huge amounts of sargassum into currents that carry it harmlessly out to the open ocean.
As well as this, there are huge barrier systems in place that catch 1000s of tons of sargassum that previously would have reached the Riviera Maya.
This system has proven hyper-effective, so much so that the Mexican Navy recently erected even more of these structures to further deny sargassum its goal of ruining travelers’ beach vacations.
On land, it’s the tourism industry in the form of beachfront resorts that are taking the fight to sargassum.
From the early morning, large teams of sargassum cleanup crews can be seen with everything from pitchforks to specialist collection vehicles returning the beautiful Riviera Maya beaches to their best.
So while it’s important to keep an eye on the sargassum forecast and cleanup operation, travelers don’t need to find an alternative destination.
The Riviera Maya is still the best location in Mexico for an unforgettable beach vacation!
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