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The Navy Prepares To Install Sargassum Seaweed Barriers Around Cancun

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Sargassum Season Has Already Impacted Several Quintana Roo Beaches

The government of Quintana Roo announced this week that the Navy is preparing to install sargassum sea barriers to help protect the state’s beaches. Puerto Morelos will receive the first barrier this week.

navy boat

Quintana Roo Governor, Carlos Joaquin, announced the projects on the state’s communication page, acknowledging the frustration that the sargassum can cause in the tourism industry and for the tourists themselves.

Speaking remotely from Mexico City, the governor covered a variety of topics, but when speaking of the sargassum said,

We know that it is a natural phenomenon that generates adverse conditions, but we will be working with the Secretary of the Navy, the municipalities, the hoteliers, the private initiative, with our best effort to keep the beaches clean, so that they continue to be a great tourist attraction” exhorted the governor of Quintana Roo

sargassum beach

Sargassum has continually plagued the coast of Quintana Roo for several years. The problem has increased significantly as global water temperatures rise, as the unsightly seaweed thrives in warmer temperatures. Unless there is a significant change to the greater issue of global warming, it’s unlikely that Cancun and Quintana Roo can expect to be rid of the seaweed anytime soon.

collection

For those unaware of the frustrations of sargassum, it is more than just a typical seaweed. The macroalgae forms miles out to sea in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Tangled up in itself, it forms huge island like masses sometimes several kilometers long.

At sea, it causes no problems and is actually an important marine ecosystem that supports many creatures. But as it hits the coastline it causes endless problems for the tourism industry. Firstly, it can be a safety hazard when it floats in the shallower waters, as some swimmers have been known to get tangled in it. This is rare, but still poses a potential threat for younger or less confident swimmers.

seaweed beach

More importantly for the tourism industry and visitors to the region is the smell. It proceeds a sulphur like odor when it lays on the sand, making it virtually impossible to hang around for long and enjoy the beach. The masses of brown seaweed make the typically pristine beaches of the Mexican Caribbean look unclean and unpleasant, as well as taking up a lot of space where people could be laying or playing.

The government spends a lot of money every year trying to solve the problem and keep the beaches clear, but it is almost inevitable that some will get through. 

boats and seaweed

This year’s deposits have already started. Playa del Carmen found its beaches covered with as much as 80 tonnes of sargassum last week, prompting the statements made by the governor. According to his schedule, Puerto Morelos will have its barrier installed this week. Playa del Carmen will receive its barrier in the first week of April, and then Tulum will get its own in the second week of April.

tractor seaweed

As well as the barriers, the navy will also be deploying specialized boats to head out into the sea and collect major deposits before it gets near the shore. Surveillance will continue regularly to check for any potential masses that are approaching the coast. Some of the newer methods being utilized for this purpose include drones and even hot air balloons.

walking on sargassum

Several tourists have already stated their hesitance after seeing the new deposits on Play del Carmen, and most years, many will plan their trips around the sargassum season. Generally, the warmer the weather the higher the chances of sargassum deposits. It’s hoped that the proactive measure being implemented this year will help lessen the detrimental effects.

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Jeffrey Mattero

Friday 8th of April 2022

Can someone verify the date of this article? I seem to remember something very similar to this back a few years ago, possibly 2016 or 2017.