How Puerto Morelos Beats the Sargassum Seaweed Invasion

Puerto Morelos has reduced sargassum on its beaches for visitors' enjoyment. The government has taken action by installing anti-sargasso barriers and coordinating efforts with the State and Federal authorities.

How Puerto Morelos Beats the Sargassum Seaweed Invasion
Latest seaweed conditions in Puerto Morelos. Credit: Sargasso Network

The government of Puerto Morelos, Quintana Roo has taken joint action to keep the 1.8-kilometer public area beaches clean for tourists by reducing the amount of sargassum, also known as seaweed, on the shore.

The Director of Municipal Public Services, Leonel Salazar Trejo, announced that the macroalgae have decreased considerably in the municipality's coasts from 70 tons to approximately 30 tons. This reduction in seaweed arrival is attributed to the weather, which has been helping to keep it away.

In addition, 70 percent of the anti-sargasso barriers installed by the Secretariat of the Navy (SEMAR) have been put in place. The installation of 2,100 linear meters of anti-sargassum barrier will help collect the macroalgae in the sea and reduce the amount that reaches the coast.

The director stated that the joint action of the three orders of government has been coordinated to ensure the safety of visitors and residents of this destination. Two brigades from Public Services, together with workers from the Federal Maritime Terrestrial Zone (Zofemat), have been cleaning the public beaches of Puerto Morelos free of sargassum since early morning.

The municipal official explained that daily monitoring of the macroalgae patches approaching the Mexican Caribbean is being carried out to ensure that the destination remains in the preference of tourists, especially during holiday periods when occupancy remains at an average of 70 percent.

The reduction in sargassum in Puerto Morelos is good news for visitors and locals alike, and it shows that the government's efforts are paying off. Even though the natural phenomenon of seaweed arrival will not stop, Puerto Morelos is taking action to keep its beaches clean and safe for everyone's enjoyment.

A few days ago, these images of a crocodile swimming in Puerto Morelos were shared. The photos and video taken by a drone by the Dakatso Group of Mexico dedicated to the placement of anti-sargassum barriers quickly went viral, alerting swimmers, even though the rescue corps in recent years has had no reports of crocodile attacks.

Today, they are once again circulating internationally, mentioning that it is dangerous to swim in Puerto Morelos, although many people say that the exotic species is only found in its habitat and takes advantage of the distance from swimmers. What do you think?

Not all beaches

The problem comes just as resorts like Cancun, Playa del Carmen, and Tulum are recovering from the brutal two-year drop in tourism caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and preparing for summer.

Not all beaches have been affected equally; many in Cancun and Isla Mujeres are usually free of significant amounts of sargassum, but much of the Riviera Maya has been badly affected.

Carlos Joaquín, governor of the coastal state of Quintana Roo, said the number of tourists arriving by air this year (some 3.54 million) is 1.27% above 2019 levels before the pandemic.

Sergio León, the former head of the state's business federation, said the algae invasion "has affected us, it has affected our image nationally and internationally. Obviously, not only visually, but in terms of environmental damage."

"The Mexican navy is making an effort, but it needs more; it's not enough," said León. "The ideal would be to collect the algae before they reach our beaches."

Floating barriers offshore

But he points to another problem: what to do with the thousands of tons of stinking seaweed collected each year, mainly by private hotel owners. Some dump the piles collected on the beach into disused limestone quarries, where salt and minerals contained in the ocean can leach into the groundwater.

Others merely leave them in forests or mangroves, which is equally damaging. Although some have attempted to use the sargassum to create bricks or fertilizer, the lack of official policies and long-term plans makes it difficult to obtain significant investments for such schemes.