Tulum seaweed update: massive sargassum landfall strikes again this week

07/06/2021

Tulum will be greatly affected this week by the massive sargassum landfall, as three concentrations of this seaweed are expected to reach the beaches of Quintana Roo, so they have activated the semaphore to report daily on the amount that reaches the area.

Tulum seaweed update. The beaches of Cozumel, Tulum, Xcalak and Mahahual are affected by these algae that drive away tourists and affect the marine flora and fauna.
Tulum seaweed update. The beaches of Cozumel, Tulum, Xcalak and Mahahual are affected by these algae that drive away tourists and affect the marine flora and fauna.

"Considering the trajectories through the current models, three groups of sargassum are delimited with the maximum probability of propitiating landings on the coast", according to the Ministry of the Navy. For this reason, 47 beaches will be monitored, from Holbox to Xcalak.

One of the highest concentrations of sargassum will be present on the beaches of Tulum, Mahahual, and Xcalak. Cozumel will have high concentrations, while Isla Mujeres will have moderate and low amounts. Another concentration of sargassum is located 42 kilometers southeast of Punta Herrero, which will reach the Cozumel channel in three days, with landings on the coasts of Mahahual and Sian Ka'an.

Finally, the concentration with the highest proportion is located 45 kilometers southeast of Mahahual, with high probabilities of landfall along the entire Mayan coast, as reported by Sipse. Mexico's Ministry of the Navy announced at the end of May, that 10,462.76 tons of sargassum have been collected at sea and on the beaches of seven municipalities of Quintana Roo, so far this year.

The entity explained at the time that overflights are maintained to monitor the macroalgae, the operation of 29 vessels, of which 11 are sargaceros, an oceanic sargacero vessel, and four sweepers, plus 300 naval elements that support the collection of sargassum on the affected beaches of the municipalities of Isla Mujeres, Benito Juarez (Cancun), Puerto Morelos, Cozumel, Solidaridad (Playa del Carmen), Tulum and Othon P. Blanco (Chetumal).

According to Navy data, there are no algae-free beaches in Tulum, Mahahual, and Xcalak, while Cozumel has high concentrations.

Sargasso begins to affect the Mexican Caribbean from April, with the arrival of spring and warmer temperatures, and extends until September. So far, in addition to Tulum, it has affected the tourist beaches of Playa del Carmen, Cozumel, Xcalak, and Mahahual.

For local businessmen, the arrival of the algae is a nightmare that keeps them awake at night year after year, but this 2021 makes them even more nervous due to the drop in visitors that the Caribbean region has experienced as a result of the covid-19 pandemic, which hit Mexican tourism hard.

It is the owners of coastal businesses, such as restaurants and hotels, who must invest to clean the coasts, a strenuous job with few results, given that the seaweed reaches the beaches in enormous quantities. It has a negative effect not only on tourism. When it decomposes, it releases toxic organic substances that affect coral reefs and marine fauna, and flora that live along the coastline.

Sargassum has always been present in the Caribbean, but since 2011 it has arrived massively to the paradisiacal Mexican coasts. This phenomenon, studied by scientists, has occurred due to the warming of ocean waters, one of the consequences of climate change. It alters marine currents, winds, and sea temperature, which favors the growth of sargassum.

In addition, the chemicals dumped into the rivers by agriculture, industry, and mining end up flowing into the sea, which becomes nutrients that the sargassum takes advantage of to reproduce. The largest arrival of the invasive algae occurred in 2015, but marine biologists and those who work monitoring the Caribbean coasts fear that this year will surpass that record.

The authorities of Quintana Roo have already requested the support of the Navy to deal with the phenomenon and boats have been deployed to place anti-sargassum barriers in the places most visited by tourists, but the amount of algae that reaches the coasts is such that it is almost impossible to contain the invader.