Mexico City - The large volume of sargassum washing up on the beaches of Quintana Roo this year is more than double the amount of that in 2015, said Brigitta Van Tussenbroek, an expert at the Puerto Morelos Reef Systems Academic Unit of UNAM, who called it an "ecological disaster."
Van Tussenbroek recalled that in 2015 the foul-smelling seaweed was a problem between June and October, but this year it began to appear in March and is expected to keep coming until October, which could make this the largest invasion of the alga ever seen in recorded history.
Clumps of the viny brown seaweed known as sargassum have long washed up on Caribbean coastlines, but researchers say the algae have exploded in extent and frequency in recent years. There are various ideas about what is causing the seaweed boom that scientists say started in 2011, including warming ocean temperatures and changes in the ocean currents due to climate change.
"The sargassum problem that we're experiencing at the moment in Quintana Roo has already exceeded the individual response capacity of the municipalities or hotel owners. We need a coordinated effort to be able to mitigate it," Van Tussenbroek said.
The expert explained that the owners of large hotels in the state are spending around 1 million pesos ($54,000 USD) per month to remove the sargassum from their beaches, a problem that is affecting tourism in virtually every Caribbean beach vacation destination.
According the The Riviera Maya News, Quintana Roo Governor Carlos Joaquin said that the state will soon begin using a new method to collect the sargasso at sea, before it has a chance to reach the beaches.
In the coming days, ecological fences similar to those used in oil spills, along with specialized offshore machinery, will be utilized in Playa del Carmen and Cancun, as well as at the beaches of Mahahual, Tulum, Isla Mujeres and Puerto Morelos, he said.
The governor went on to say that, in addition to the sea collection, manual cleaning of the beaches will continue twice a day.Sources: La Jornada • The Riviera Maya News