The Unpleasant Seaweed Has Been Laying On The Shoreline For Two Weeks
Some of Tulum’s beaches are covered in sargassum that hasn’t been removed for almost two weeks. The local authorities have been more focused on clearing the hotel beaches than the sandbanks frequented by locals and visitors who prefer a quieter beach.
The problem faced by Tulum is the selection of beaches being cleared. Naturally, the trendy hotel beaches are the first areas emptied of sargassum. Tourists are able to walk out of their hotels onto the sand, making it the prime location for the bulk of the beach users.
Tulum, however, has a slightly different demographic from the likes of Cancun and Playa del Carmen. As much as 45% of the city’s temporary inhabitants stay in Airbnbs and other longer-term accommodations, away from the all-inclusive hotels and resorts that dominate the most popular beaches.
These groups and locals make much more frequent use of quieter beaches away from the bustle of the hotel zones. It is these beaches that are being neglected, leaving massive deposits of the unsightly brown seaweed.
Reports suggest that the current levels of sargassum deposits are in category 6, representing one of the highest rates possible. The Secretariat of Ecology and Environment tracks the sargassum levels every year, following masses from when they form miles out to sea in the middle of the Atlantic until they find their way to the beaches of the Mexican Caribbean.
If the levels remain constant, an abundance of beaches in Quintana Roo can expect to see mounds of sargassum as high as 70cm form in one night. Left for several days like the beaches in Tulum, many of the popular areas could find themselves weighed down drastically, putting a serious dent into the vacation plans of the millions of tourists passing through the region.
The Navy is currently installing sargassum barriers at strategic points throughout the state, but it appears that the estimated start of the season was off by several weeks. It was hoped that the barriers would be up well before the first major deposits started to appear, but the evidence at Tulum and Playa del Carmen is suggesting otherwise.
Tulum’s barrier won’t be installed for another week or two, leaving even more time for the deposits to grow along with tourist frustrations. Many already voiced their concern on social media, suggesting they may even cancel their trips if the rates don’t improve.
The sargassum is no typical seaweed. The frustrating macroalgae forms in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, tangling itself up into island-like structures sometimes kilometers in length. At sea, they pose no problems for humans and, in fact, they are an extremely important ecosystem where small sea creatures can thrive.
But as they approach the mainland and eventually wash up on the shores of the Caribbean, they begin to cause a multitude of problems for the tourist industry. In the shallows, they pose a mild threat for poor swimmers who have found themselves caught in the tangled seaweed before. This is rare, but still of concern.
The main issue is when they wash up on the shore. The sheer volume of the sargassum covers the beaches in an unsightly brown color, ruining the typically pristine look of the shores of the Mexican Caribbean. It then produces an unpleasant sulfur-like smell, making it almost unbearable to stay in the area for long.
For a region that’s biggest draw is the beach sargassum is a massive problem. The algae thrive in warm water, and with global warming influencing water temperatures, the problem is only going to grow in the years to come.
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