Playa del Carmen seaweed: Sargasso returns to Playa del Carmen

Locals, tourists and businessmen of Playa del Carmen, were surprised by the atypical arrival of at least 30 tons of seaweed, according to City Council workers.

The seaweed arrival in Playa del Carmen began to be visible on the beach so locals, in addition to employees of shops, were given the task of starting to collect it. Photo: Twitter screenshot
The seaweed arrival in Playa del Carmen began to be visible on the beach so locals, in addition to employees of shops, were given the task of starting to collect it. Photo: Twitter screenshot

It was around 7:00, when the arrival began to be visible on the beach, so locals, in addition to employees of shops, were given the task of starting to collect it.

The arrival of this microalgae is considered atypical, since, according to forecasts, the authorities were waiting for its arrival until the end of this month or during the spring, which is when the presence of the sargassum is usually recorded on the Caribbean coast.

Meanwhile, authorities expressed concern about the phenomenon, while businessmen and citizens of Playa, fear that there may be damages due to sargassum, as has happened in previous seasons, although the corresponding measures are already taken to keep this problem under control.

Analyzes made by the University of Florida, predicted that the sargassum would reach the beaches of Quintana Roo during the spring and that the amount of algae would be low by ensuring that the amount of sargassum in the Atlantic Ocean has been reduced by half.

Meanwhile, City Council workers calculated more than 30 tons of sargassum that arrived at the beaches. The social communication area of the municipality of Solidaridad, explained that the rest of the coastal sections woke up without the arrival of the algae.

Sargassum will reach Playa del Carmen in March, fishermen warned

Although this Monday the sargassum stopped arriving due to the northern winds, fishermen from the Caribbean Sea tourist cooperative warn that the seaweed will return in high quantities by March, when the cold fronts no longer frequently arrive.

In advance, Marco Antonio Loeza Pacheco, director of the Federal Maritime Land Zone (Zofemat), reported that it will be during the month of February that they will issue the tender for the collection of sargassum on the beach with an investment of over $36 million pesos (USD 1,931,503).

So far only Paradisus hotel is placing an anti-sargasso barrier on its waterfront, in other words, between Punta Esmeralda beach and 88, both with the distinctive Blue Flag, a project that in addition to benefiting tourists who come to the accommodation center also seeks to include the local population who meet recreationally on both beaches.

Seaweed barrier

This is a structure that is promoted by the Paradisus hotel that will also benefit local bathers, in addition to its concession area in one of the most popular points for the local population, since it has two public accesses and Blue Flag certification.

Just as Conrad Bergwerf, president of the Riviera Maya Hotel Association, had said, the initial work began this week and prior to the month of March, which is when the sargassum usually arrives in excess to the beaches of the Riviera Maya.

"It is an investment from the private initiative, in which two public beaches with a blue flag will benefit," said Conrad Bergwerf in the announcement made earlier this year, although he omitted to disclose investment costs.

Sargasso barrier: some hotels have hired directly to protect the coast, as is in Playa del Carmen, at the height of Beach 88.
Sargasso barrier: some hotels have hired directly to protect the coast, as is in Playa del Carmen, at the height of Beach 88.

Both Beach 88 and Punta Esmeralda in the time of excessive reloading of sargassum had effects on their image, mainly the second beach because it has a bend where the algae accumulates more easily.

Even, both coastal sections had to lower their blue flag last May when there were no conditions to exhibit the Blue Flag certification. Civil Protection estimates that this coastal stretch in high season receives more than three thousand swimmers per day.

Personnel from the Océano Cleaner company, which is installing the project, said it is the first time they have placed a barrier on beaches with public access and sponsored directly by the private initiative.

They said the nets are made of polymer and are certified so they do not represent a risk of contamination or a negative factor for marine species if ingested.

Yesterday morning, the group of workers was carrying out tests to place the nets anchored to the coastal area and they foresee that it will be between 20 and 25 days before they are fully installed.

On the other hand, according to information from Marco Antonio Loeza Pacheco, director of the Federal Maritime Land Zone (Zofemat), it will be until March when the project of installing barriers for the rest of the coast will be ready, that is, from the beach of Shangri-la and up to the dock of the maritime terminal of Playa del Carmen.

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 sargassum 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 of Cancun 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 has 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.