Current Puerto Morelos seaweed conditions update

Cleaning of the beaches of Puerto Morelos is reinforced. Zofemat and Public Services personnel work daily to remove the sargassum from the beaches.

Current Puerto Morelos seaweed conditions update
Latest seaweed conditions in Puerto Morelos. Credit: Sargasso Network

To keep the beaches of Puerto Morelos free of sargassum, elements of Public Services, and the Federal Maritime Terrestrial Zone (Zofemat), continue their efforts to keep the public beaches free of this algae.

During this vacation season, the arrival of sargassum in Puerto Morelos has increased, which is why the municipality redoubled cleaning works. According to the director of Public Services, Leonel Salazar Trejo, the containment barrier that inhibits the macroalgae from reaching the coast is still in place.

They have a vessel that makes two daily trips to collect six tons of the marine plant at sea, which the facilities of the fiscal dock remove.

"We are giving special attention to our beaches, despite seaweed's arrival in recent dates."

The brigades begin the cleaning work at 6:00 am, conclude at 1:00 pm, and remove 12 to 14 tons of sargassum daily. Recently, the municipality of Puerto Morelos acquired a new Barber beach sweeper, whose sargassum collection system has rakes and a sieve that allows the sand to return to the beaches.

Mexican Navy (SEMAR) provides machinery to fight sargassum

Recently, the Puerto Morelos City Hall received a tow tractor and a sweeper from the Secretary of the Navy to form a cleaning and maintenance program at different points of the beaches to face the enormous sargassum influx in the Mexican Caribbean.

Leonel Salazar Trejo, general director of Public Services, said that about 50 people who make up the operational staff begin at 6 am cleaning almost 2 kilometers of sandy beaches from the seaweed that started to land in the town a month ago.

They are working in the area of the old town, on Rojo Gómez Avenue, but above all in the central part of our most recognized tourist and symbolic image, which is "The Window to the Sea," he explained.

"The Ventana al Mar pier is the area that we take care of every day from 6 in the morning; our colleagues are giving it maintenance and working to reduce the amount of sargassum," he concluded.

The navy currently has 11 sargassum collection boats operating. But the marina's figures show that the portion they have been able to collect before it hits the beach has been decreasing.

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.