Sargassum is making a slow but steady comeback in Cancun as the city inches closer to the start of the macroalgae season. For the past several months, travelers have been able to vacation in Cancun and the Mexican Caribbean without having to deal with sargassum, a pesky seaweed that washes up on local shores. This week, however, the first signs of the impending sargassum season appeared after authorities reported high levels of sargassum seaweed on at least 7 Cancun beaches.
Local environmental officials reported the first larger appearance of sargassum seaweed this week in Cancun, a month and a half before the official start of the seaweed season in the Mexican Caribbean. Authorities are anticipating a record season for sargassum this year as climate change continues to warm up the world’s oceans, creating the perfect conditions for more seaweed to grow.
The past several months have been excellent for beachgoers, with minimal traces of the foul-smelling seaweed on Cancun beaches. This week, however, the situation started to look different, as authorities noticed considerable amounts of sargassum on 7 Cancun beaches. The most affected locations currently include Del Nino, Las Perlas, Chacmool, Ballenas, Marlín, Delfines, and Nizuc playa Coral.
Current modeling forecasts point to more sargassum washing up on Cancun beaches over the following weeks, prompting authorities to activate cleaning protocols. Millions of travelers will be flocking to the Mexican Caribbean during the winter period, and many of them will be spending countless hours sunbathing in Cancun’s Blue-Flag beaches.
According to Zofemat, the local environmental agency charged with maintaining public beaches in tip-top shape, around 180 employees will be working around the clock this season to clear sargassum from Cancun’s main beaches. Although the number of employees will be the same as last year, the city is also working closely with volunteer groups and resorts to maximize efficiency.
With 2023 expected to be a record-breaking year for tourism in Cancun and the Mexican Caribbean, authorities are keen on keeping beaches in stellar condition. After all, the Mexican Caribbean’s soft white-sand beaches are among the top reasons to visit the area, meaning that unkempt beaches could potentially damage the location’s otherwise excellent reputation.
Officials around the Mexican Caribbean have begun to prepare for the impending sargassum season, which is also expected to top previous records. More investments are being made in anti-sargassum technology, including barriers, cleaning devices, and even waste treatment centers that transform sargassum into byproducts.
According to a recent analysis by the University of Southern Florida, 2023 might see some of the highest sargassum levels on record. Up to 6 million tons of sargassum seaweed is currently afloat in the Atlantic ocean based on data gathered by NASA and several universities.
Although the sargassum season typically begins in the Mexican Caribbean between March and April, this year, it is expected to impact the coastline significantly earlier. Alongside safety issues, sargassum is one of the main concerns travelers face when enjoying their vacation in Cancun. Last year, popular hotspots like Playa del Carmen and Cozumel grappled with record sargassum levels, causing tourists to seek other beach destinations where the problem isn’t as pronounced.
Meanwhile, places like Holbox have skyrocketed in popularity thanks to their mangroves and sand dunes which offer them a natural barrier against the pesky seaweed.
Travelers headed to Cancun and the Mexican Caribbean this year can follow regular sargassum updates on the local Red de Monitoreo del Sargazo de Quintana Roo (the Quintana Roo Sargassum Monitoring Network), which posts weekly updates on sargassum levels in the Mexican Caribbean’s top beaches.
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