Tulum seaweed update: massive sargassum arrival reported

Due to the massive amount of seaweed that has been washed up on Tulum's coasts, authorities, tourism service providers and the private sector have not been able to keep the beaches clean, despite the use of machinery to remove the seaweed.

Tulum seaweed update. Photo: Sargassum Monitoring Network, Environmental conservation organisation
Tulum seaweed update. Photo: Sargassum Monitoring Network, Environmental conservation organisation

The barrier installed in this area does not work because the waves that pass over it allow the sargassum to continue its course to the coast, especially when the sea is rough, making a big pile as can be seen today.

According to tourist service providers in the area, for a little more than two months tons of sargassum have been arriving at the coasts, which may exceed 100 tons. The competent authorities and the private sector, both manually and with the use of machinery, are making great efforts to remove the sargassum from the sea and the beach, but they have not managed to keep the coast free of it for at least a few hours.

According to tourist service providers in the area, for a little more than two months tons of sargassum have been arriving at the coasts, which may exceed 100 tons. The competent authorities and the private sector, both manually and with the use of machinery, are making great efforts to remove the sargassum from the sea and the beach, but they have not managed to keep the coast free of it for at least a few hours.

According to data obtained, by means of machinery they manage to remove up to 100 tons, while manually with a pushcart, 10 to 15 tons, while they remove more continue to arrive. In the case of Playa Maya, they have an area where they store the sargassum and then remove it from the site.

Although this causes discontent among those who work at the site, since they mention it causes foul odors, coupled with the fact that the trucks take time to arrive at the site to be removed.

In the case of the Mezzanine beach, because of the erosion, the workers of the City Hall, through the direction of the Federal Maritime Terrestrial Zone, have been in constant work. There they gather it and by means of the wheelbarrow, they move it to the high part of the beach, eroded zone, knowing that with the passage of time this becomes sand.

Tourist service providers mention that in this area of Tulum National Park, where the public beaches are located, there are points of greatest accumulation: the area in front of Santa Fe beach, Mezzanine beach, and Pescadores beach, as these are points where there is more movement of currents.

Seaweed in front of the Tulum Archaeological Zone

Sargazo frente a la Zona Arqueológica de Tulum

Posted by Red de Monitoreo del Sargazo Cancún on Sunday, 12 July 2020

In the next three months, considerable arrivals of sargassum are expected on the beaches of Quintana Roo, especially on the Riviera Maya, warned the Secretary of the Navy (Semar). The latest monitoring report showed that a greater presence of this seaweed is expected on the beaches of Playa del Carmen, Cozumel, Tulum, and Othón P Blanco, considered the most affected.

The Mexican Caribbean faces two threats this year that put tourism in check. First is the coronavirus pandemic that has forced the total closure of the tourism industry for two months causing heavy losses that are difficult to replace and now that hotel activity has resumed it is the sargassum that once again challenges the sector as it has in recent years.

State Governor Carlos Joaquin Gonzalez has announced work in coordination with the Navy to keep the beaches free of sargassum and that consists of placing 652 meters of barrier in Mahahual and 1,200 meters in Tulum to prevent the sargassum from passing.

Although the tropical storm has increased the sargassum on the beaches, the Navy said that this year the levels of algae that arrive in the months of July and August in the Mexican Caribbean will be lower than last year.

In July and August when it does so with greater force, although the authorities' forecast of receiving less this year gives some hope to the sector. The Mexican Caribbean has deployed several campaigns to revive tourism during the pandemic and sell itself as a safe destination.

Ecological and economic disaster

Scientific evidence points out that the sargassum comes dragged by winds and currents from a new sea of ​​said seaweed, the old one is located in front of the United States, detected in 2011 in the equatorial zone of the Atlantic, between South America and Africa. There, the mouths of large rivers laden with nutrients, the remnants of human activity, desertification, and global warming, encourage its proliferation.

"It has more nutrients than the original sargasso sea, on top of that there are the problems of deforestation in Africa and South America," explains Brigitta Van Tussenbroek, a researcher at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM).

"Everything is anthropogenic, it's not something natural", she adds about the phenomenon, which has also affected other points of the Caribbean such as Barbados, Guadalupe, and Bonaire. The Dutch scientist, with 30 years of work in the area, warns that the sargassum is accelerating changes in the ecosystem between 10 and 100 times, so urgent measures "forceful" involving the national government.

"There is hope but we do not have much time, it's a question of years, not decades," she warns. Once on the beach, the sargassum should be removed as soon as possible. Otherwise, it is broken down by bacteria that consume the oxygen in the water, killing animals that live in it, while its dark trail blocks sunlight, eliminating life from the seafloor.

In addition, it ends with the turquoise tone of the Caribbean, a phenomenon that could be irreversible because it is unknown if this ecosystem can recycle waste, explains Marta García, a Spanish scientist at the Institute of Marine Sciences of the UNAM in Puerto Morelos.

"It can become an ecological and economic disaster," says the expert. Rating agency Moody's warned this week that the phenomenon would hit hotel, airport and highway revenues and tax revenues. As a sample, it stands out the fall of 1.8% between January and April of passengers at the Cancun terminal, the second busiest in Mexico, compared to the same period of 2018.