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Seaweed Season Begins As Sargassum Washes Up On Beaches In Playa del Carmen And Tulum

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First Major Deposit Is A Concern For Tourists And Businesses

The first major deposit of sargassum arrived in Playa del Carmen and several other popular tourist spots including Tulum on Friday night. It’s estimated that around eighty tonnes of the unpleasant seaweed were left on the beaches.

seaweed beach

Tourists and hoteliers woke on Saturday morning to the unpleasant sight of masses of sargassum on the beaches of Playa del Carmen. Several of the most popular resort’s beach areas were heavily affected, prompting staff in the establishments to jump to work on removing it. Puerto Aventuras also received significant deposits of seaweed.

The timing is rough for Playa del Carmen. The placement of sargassum barriers to protect its beaches was delayed last week after poor weather prevented the Navy from getting to work. The barrier was due to be placed this week instead, but not soon enough to prevent the masses of brown from covering the shoreline.

man picking up sargassum

The removal process is not easy once it’s on the beach. The workers have to be careful not to cause beach erosion with their methods. In this case, they pulled the majority of the sargassum to the streets near the beach and collected it there, preventing any damage to the beach. It’s not easy work, but the presence of sargassum greatly impacts the business of Cancun, Playa del Carmen, and Tulum.

sargassum deposit

Sargassum isn’t typical seaweed. It forms miles out to sea in huge floating island-like structures. At sea, it’s massive beneficial. It creates its own ecosystem where thousands of small sea creatures are able to live, as well as providing nutrients for the water in the surrounding area.

The problem with sargassum arrives as it approaches the coastline. These tangles of weed can be kilometers long, formed by tens of thousands of individual weeds intertwined. When they reach the shoreline, they float in the shallows before being left on the beach. When floating in the shallows, they pose a safety threat for young or inexperienced swimmers who have been known to get caught in it. Small fish and other animals can also still be living in the tangle.

tractor for seaweed

Its biggest downside is when it washes up, however. It produces a sulfur-like smell making it extremely unpleasant for any beachgoers nearby and typically leads to many avoiding the beach completely. On a purely aesthetic level, it is detrimental to the atmosphere of the region. The biggest draw of the Mexican Caribbean is the pristine beaches and crystal blue water. The presence of a giant knot of seaweed Changs the water’s color and the white sands are covered and smelly.

seaweed pickup

The local government spends incredible amounts of money fighting the sargassum. The problem has grown over the past decade as water temperatures increase globally. Global warming will continue to exacerbate the arrival of the seaweed which thrives in warm waters. 

tulum pickup

Barriers are placed at strategic points around the area, and the Navy even collects masses of sargassum at sea before it gets a chance to approach the shore. Several new tactics have been implemented, including the use of drones to oversee the movement of clumps. A hot air balloon company in Miami has even been hired to help with the surveillance effort. Most hotels even have their own designated staff who collect the seaweed that makes it to the beach.

playa del carmen

Tourists visiting the region over the next few weeks should check in with their hotels to find out the sargassum situation at that specific location. With as many as 3 million visitors passing through the region over the Easter period, expect hotels and all organizations involved with sargassum prevention to be working at full capacity to ensure an enjoyable experience for everyone.

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Jana Gray

Thursday 7th of April 2022

How are beaches at Ocean Riviera Paradise? We have a trip planned mid June there.

Brian Mod

Saturday 2nd of April 2022

The beaches at Playa are unusable. I was here March 30th and no one was on them and not a single person in the water


Tuesday 22nd of March 2022

How are the beaches at Barcelo Colonial?