Giant sargassum formation approaches Mexican beaches

"The seaweed is a minor issue," López Obrador told reporters at a news conference in Cancun, Mexico

Giant sargassum formation approaches Mexican beaches
Authorities from the Solidaridad municipality began placing 2.5 kilometers of barriers to contain the sargassum influx near Playa del Carmen - Photo: Alonso Cupul/EL UNIVERSAL
English 25/06/2019 13:58 Newsroom & Agencies Mexico City Alberto Morales & Adriana Varillas/EL UNIVERSAL, Reuters, Cancun's Sargassum Monitoring Network Actualizada 13:58
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Attributed to climate change by many researchers, growing volumes of the brown seaweed have blanketed many beaches in recent years, alarming tourists as well as investors over the potential consequences for one of Mexico’s major growth drivers.

However, the infestation of seaweed along large stretches of Mexico’s Caribbean coast, home to many of the country’s top beach destinations, is not a major problem, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said on Monday.

“The seaweed is a minor issue,” López Obrador told reporters at a news conference in Cancun, Mexico’s top beach destination, adding that he is not worried about the seaweed causing major damage to the tourist-dependent economies.

Describing Quintana Roo, the state surrounding Cancun, as “paradise,” López Obrador shrugged off several reporters who aggressively pressed him about the dire impact that surging seaweed has already caused for area hotels and other beach-front businesses.

The state’s governor, Carlos Joaquín, was also present at the news conference and likewise played down the seaweed’s impact on the local hospitality industry.

Rafael Ojeda, head of Mexico’s Navy, said some 1,000 kilometers (621 miles) of Mexican beaches have been affected by the scourge, which makes swimming unpleasant, and that the government is crafting a plan to pinpoint which areas should take action.

In face of of the federal government’s inaction, hotel owners and businessmen have had to turn to private initiative.

Authorities from the Solidaridad municipality began placing 2.5 kilometers of barriers to contain the sargassum influx near Playa del Carmen.

The installation was funded by a private company called Ar.Co, which took similar measures last year. However, sargassum levels in 2018 far exceeded the barrier’s capacity.

MORENA councilor Laura Beristain indicated that the barrier strategy was added to manual cleaning efforts by members of the Federal Terrestrial Maritime Zone (ZOFEMAT), local businessmen, and even citizens.

ZOFEMAT director Ulises Gavia Díaz stated that he was working with the Ministry of the Navy (SEMAR) and the state government to collect sargassum from beaches.

Brigades have collected up to 100 tons per day, which is four times more than in 2018. Moreover, local hotels have placed their own barriers as well.

Ojeda said that the government will spend USD$2.7 million to build four boats specially designed to remove seaweed, in addition to new barriers to retain it, all funded with public money without the use of private contractors.

Despite downplaying the problem and extolling the beauty of Mexico’s beaches, López Obrador also said the government is working to address it, later pledging “all the resources that are needed.”

Last month, Moody’s Investors Service flagged the seaweed risk to Mexican tourism sector and called on the government to intensify efforts to protect affected beaches.

Giant sargassum formation approaching Quintana Roo

Cancun’s Sargassum Monitoring Network informed that more sargassum is expected to arrive at beaches in Quintana Roo, affecting 260 kilometers of coastline between Tulum and Xcalak, as well as the state’s southernmost region.

The network informed through social media that the phenomenon is due to a significant concentration of macro-algae west of Jamaica, adding that this new “sargassum stain” is more than 550 kilometers (342 miles) in diameter.

“Due to the prevailing currents and direction of the south and south-east winds, the sargassum formation is expected to arrive on the shores of Mexico sometime next week,” the network warned.

The gigantic sargassum formation will affect central and southern Mexico.


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