Progress Has Been Delayed For Weeks Due To Poor Weather Conditions
Playa del Carmen must wait another week for its sargassum barriers to be installed after poor weather has halted the Navy’s progress. The news comes as tonnes of the unpleasant seaweed have been washed ashore across the state.
The Navy has already released as many as 26 ships into the Mexican Caribbean for the purpose of fighting the sargassum problem. Several larger ships named sargacero ships are designed specifically to collect massive amounts of the macroalgae at sea, while others’ main function is getting into the shallower waters near the coast to install the barriers.
The installation process was supposed to begin in the first weeks of March, with the last of the barriers being installed in the first week of April. Now, it seems as if Playa del Carmen won’t be getting its protection until the end of April, if not May.
Poor weather has halted much of the progress, as rough waves and currents have made it impossible for the ships to function in the shallows. Without the added protection of the barriers, hoteliers and other community members bear the brunt of the issue. Many of the hotels have hired extra hands to manually clear the beaches in front of their establishments.
According to several organizations that track the yearly deposits, over 25 thousand tonnes of the sargassum were deposited over Easter week alone across the Mexican Caribbean. This is only a small portion of the huge amounts that have already been washed up this year, threatening the enjoyment of hundreds of thousands of sun-seeking tourists.
The sargassum problem has been growing for the past few years as global water temperatures continue to rise. The macroalgae thrive in warmer waters and with no end in sight for the climate crisis, the Mexican Caribbean can expect a battle on its hands for the foreseeable future. 2022 is forecasted to be one of the worst, if not the worst, years on record for the Mexican Caribbean.
According to the reports, many of the hotels are doing a good job of clearing their beaches, but several less popular locations have been closed while businesses focus on the more typically crowded areas. Huge pileups of the seaweed arrive overnight, with some as high as one meter.
The sargassum isn’t like typical seaweed. It forms miles out to sea, in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. As it grows, it tangles upon itself and creates massive island-like structures that float west towards the Caribbean. Some of the masses have been recorded as 5km long.
At sea, they cause no problems and are actually massively beneficial for the ocean-based ecosystems. However, as they arrive on the coast they begin to cause problems for the tourist industry. As it floats in the shallow waters, the usually clear blue waters of the Caribbean are turned a murky brown. Some weaker swimmers have been known to get tangled in the seaweed too, and it can even cause rashes for those who touch it.
Once it hits the beach, the white sands are covered in the brown sargassum, and it begins to emit an unpleasant sulfur-like smell. This is the biggest problem as tourists generally try and avoid being anywhere near it. Some visitors have been known to cancel their trips if they are aware the deposit levels are high.
For these reasons, getting rid of the sargassum remains a huge priority for the entire region of Quintana Roo. From Tulum to Cancun, all of the beaches are impacted at least a little bit. Checking in on the levels before arrival can help visitors to plan the beaches they may want to use. Hotels and other organizations have up-to-date info on all the beaches’ sargassum levels.
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