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Why Playa Del Carmen Sargassum Is Down By Nearly Half This Year

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Throughout the Mexican Caribbean, there has been an unwelcome issue to contend with for over 10 years now, one that has affected many travelers’ ability to fully enjoy the kind of beach vacation that millions arrive each year to enjoy.

Sargassum has been a news cycle fixture across the whole of the Caribbean each spring and summer. For a long time, the most positive news to come out about this issue has been the steps destinations are taking to clean up the pungent algae after it makes landfall.

A beach in playa del carmen with a small amount of sargassum washed up

However, huge initiatives put into action over the past year in the hope of keeping sargassum at bay are finally paying off.

A Huge Reduction

The latest data from local authorities states that the first two months of 2024 have seen the amount of sargassum, which is measured in tons, almost cut in half.

In January and February of 2023, over 1,800 tons were recorded in Playa del Carmen alone, and for the same period in 2024 that has reduced to just 1000 tons.

A fair question travelers may ask is; how will this affect the beaches of Playa del Carmen?

Stunning Beach in Playa del Carmen, Mexico

The answer is that this could see the clean-up operation to return the beaches to their pristine best completed in a much faster time.

The infrastructure for clearing sargassum from Playa del Carmen’s beaches has been continually strengthened over the past few years, with specialist collection vehicles and large teams of clean-up operatives being the bulk of the response.

With that well-funded sargassum clearing system already in place and now a huge reduction in the amount of the algae reaching Playa del Carmen’s shores, the signs are pointing to this year’s spring and summer seasons being the best the destination has seen in almost a decade.

Woman walking on Playa del Carmen beach with Sargassum

What Changed?

There are multiple factors that have come into play to make this year’s sargassum season start off so mild.

First up, temperatures at sea have been milder than average over the first two months of 2024, and this has helped to hold back the normally rapid growth that sargassum goes through during this period out in the Sargasso Sea, (An area of the North Atlantic Ocean where the algae flourish).

A map showing the location of the sargasso sea

Additionally, while nature has played its part this year in keeping the sargassum blooms from growing as large as in previous years, the extensive systems put in place off the coast of destinations like Playa del Carmen are finally getting into the game.

One of these systems that the destination has high hopes of helping in the long term is the extensive barrier system installed off the coast.

Sargassum catching barriers

Not unlike the barrier systems used to contain oil spills, this sargassum-catching apparatus is strategically placed in areas where the blooms have in the past traveled through most often.

However, the system isn’t foolproof, as rough seas can still push sargassum blooms over the barrier system, where the current then carries it to shore.

Thankfully, that isn’t the only line of defense that has been put in place.

sargassum truck collecting seaweed in playa del carmen

Huge financial investments have been made to purchase specially outfitted boats and ships that are capable of dragging sargassum blooms away from Playa del Carmen.

Many of these vessels are operated by the Mexican Navy, which has also been committed to playing an active role in protecting the appeal of a Mexican Caribbean vacation.  

A ship of the Mexican Navy in a Quintana roo port

The Outlook

The local authorities, as well as the resort industry across the Mexican Caribbean, are just as keen to see the back of sargassum as travelers.

As a vacation destination, Playa del Carmen prides itself on the care it takes of its beaches, and the hard work to keep them in top condition has been getting harder year on year.

While it’s still too early in the season to make a reliable prediction on what sort of effect sargassum will have this spring and summer or how much of it will arrive, the outlook is positive.

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