Playa del Carmen sargassum recharge will increase next week
The Sargasso Citizen Observatory reported that the beaches of Playa del Carmen are affected by massive sargassum arrival that began early Thursday morning and will last about a week; 17 of the 133 beaches in the Mexican Caribbean are invaded by abundant seaweed.
An abundant seaweed recharge arrived in Playa del Carmen on Thursday: there is sargassum on the beach and in the sea. In Cancún, the area most affected is Gaviota Azul beach (behind Forum Plaza, kilometer 9.5 of Kukulcán Boulevard), where the sargassum is excessive due to the accumulation of weeks. Attention is urgently needed there.
To date, there are still no barriers installed to contain seaweed in Playa del Carmen.
The current situation of sargassum distribution is mixed, with a low concentration trend: the islands of Contoy and Mujeres, as well as Chetumal, are free of halophyte and seven of the 17 tourist destinations that make up the region have little sargassum; this is the case of Holbox Island, Puerto Morelos, Riviera Maya, Cozumel, Punta Allen, and Xcalak.
Meanwhile, Costa Mujeres, Tulum, Sian Kaan, and Mahahual have received moderate amounts of seaweed along their beaches. In summary: of the 133 beaches in the region, 14 are free of algae and 53 have a low concentration.
Meanwhile, 45 beaches report a moderate arrival of sargassum, while 17 are invaded by abundant recharge; none of the observed coastal sands are severely affected.
On its website, the Sargasso Citizen Observatory said that based on the satellite views a large stain of seaweed is approaching the Mexican Caribbean coast, carried by the movement of winds and ocean currents; the arrival will continue this Friday through Xcalak.
It will continue through Mahahual, from where it will pass to the coasts of Tulum, Cozumel Island, Playa del Carmen, Puerto Morelos, Cancun, and Isla Mujeres, in whose vicinity it will take to the waters of the Gulf of Mexico, stopping at Holbox beaches to head to the Florida peninsula.
These are the first massive calls in the season, which began last April and is expected to continue in the months of July and August and conclude between September and October. In the satellite images from the University of South Florida, large quantities of macro-algae are visualized heading towards the coasts of Quintana Roo.
According to the University's monthly report, the amount of sargasso at sea exceeds the records for 2019, even though it was predicted to be less this year: in May 8.7 million tons were reported by 8.2 in the same period last year, while in 2015 the record shows 8.8 million.
Boats begin to collect sargassum at sea off Playa del Carmen
As part of the Integral Sargasso 2020 Program prepared by the authorities of the three levels of government in the municipality of Solidaridad (where Playa del Carmen is located), this week began the collection of sargassum at sea by four seaweed boats, along with a 2.5-kilometer (1,5 miles) long containment barrier.
Pedro Tenorio, the coordinator of Sargasso Operations of the Federal Maritime Land Zone Direction (Zofemat), informed that the operations at sea began after several days of previous preparations, in which all the security and logistic requirements were fulfilled so that the vessels could operate at sea.
The collection operations will be carried out 500 meters (0,3 miles) in front of the coast, in a 2.5 km (1,5 miles) stretch between the Playa del Carmen maritime terminal and CTM Avenue, with vessels that have the capacity to collect up to 28 tons of sargassum per hour.
The seaweed boats will be responsible for collecting the algae and then deposited in bags that are carried to the seashore by barges of lesser depth and once at the seashore, are transported to a storage area and from there, deposited - with the support of machinery, in cargo units that carry them to their final destination.
According to the information provided, the work is carried out in strict compliance with the official standards of the Secretariat of Environment and Natural Resources (Semarnat), which establishes the requirements and specifications for sustainable beach quality.
This infrastructure is in addition to the 120 cleaning workers of the Federal Maritime Land Zone Directorate (Zofemat), in charge of preserving the attractiveness of the beaches and keeping them in the best conditions, in a stretch that goes from Mar Caribe beach to Punta Esmeralda.
Sargassum comes from Africa and reaches the part of the Amazon where it begins to nourish, rapidly increasing its volume, and then continue advancing until it reaches the beaches of Quintana Roo.
The seaweed problem is not exclusive to the state, it is a natural phenomenon present in several parts of the world and even in several areas its arrival is greater, however, it can be emphasized that no one has achieved as much progress as Mexico in the fight against this macroalgae.
The Sargasso Monitoring Network publishes daily on Facebook how to find all the beaches in the state regarding the arrival of the sargassum.
Sargassum reaching Quintana Roo contains over 28 heavy metals: research
The sargassum that arrives at the beaches of the Mexican Caribbean concentrates 28 types of metals, some of them heavy, among which stand out the high concentrations of arsenic, according to an investigation coordinated by the Institute of Marine Sciences and Limnology (ICMyL) of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), Puerto Morelos Unit.
The measurement of the components present in the sargasso was carried out between 2018 and 2019 in 63 samples of the macroalgae, using a non-destructive X-ray fluorescence analyzer, in eight locations along 370 kilometers of coast, according to the report published Wednesday in PeerJ, a specialized publication on environmental issues.
The study sites were Isla Contoy, Puerto Morelos, Aguas Azules, Cozumel, Mahahual, Banco Chinchorro, Xahuayxol and Xcalak.
The high concentration of arsenic in the sargassum is "a cause for concern about the environmental contamination of the sea and the aquifer," the report says, indicating that the macroalgae have a vast capacity to absorb metals, which means that the liquids it generates when it decomposes on the coast can contribute to the contamination of surface or subterranean water by "potentially toxic" metals.
The analyzed sargassum fabrics contained detectable concentrations of Aluminum (Al), Arsenic (As), Calcium (Ca), Chlorine (Cl), Copper (Cu), Iron (Fe), Potassium (K), Magnesium (Mg), Manganese (Mn), Molybdenum (Mo), Phosphorus (P), Lead (Pb), Rubidium (Rb), Sulphur (S), Silicon (Si), Strontium (Sr), Thorium (Th), Uranium (U), Vanadium (V) and Zinc (Zn).
Some of these elements are heavy metals, which have a certain degree of toxicity for humans, plants and animals.
"The concentration of elements in the sargasso varied on spatial and temporal scales, which probably depended on the previous trajectory of the pelagic masses, and on whether they had passed (or not) through contaminated areas," it reads.
On its way to the Mexican Caribbean, the sargassum absorbs metals that are later released when it arrives at the coast, when it accumulates and rots, which is why it is indispensable to give it adequate management, to dispose of it in environmentally suitable sites and to prevent it from decomposing on the beaches.
The presence of arsenic is a concern because it can affect flora and fauna species, as well as contaminate the sea and underground rivers when it is disposed of in unsuitable places.
The data also serve to rule out some of the alternatives for processing and reusing sargassum, such as feeding the macro-algae to pigs or cattle, because the concentrations of arsenic exceed what is allowed for those purposes.
The scientific article establishes that as of 2011 the range of massive inflow of sargassum extended over the Atlantic Ocean and the entire Caribbean Sea, reporting more than 20 million metric tons of the macroalgae in the open ocean, a volume that had its peak in June 2018, when the Great Atlantic Sargassum Belt extended for 8,850 kilometers in total length.
The accumulated sargasso on the beaches has caused havoc in the coastal ecosystems of the Caribbean - it is indicated - because in addition to the visual impact, the leachates and organic matter of the decomposing algae masses, depleted the oxygen in the waters near the coast and reduced the visibility of the water column, causing the mortality of the prairies and marine fauna near the coast.