Imagine planning your vacation to the Caribbean and arriving at your hotel to find sargassum on the beaches of Cancun. Don't let this stop you! 👁️ Come and discover the measures being taken for you to have a wonderful vacation.
There is nothing more unpleasant than walking onto a beach full of sargassum. Just getting close to a large concentration of these algae is a smelly experience and something we definitely don't want to recommend. But let's see what governments, hotels, and, of course, citizens are doing to solve the sargassum in México in 2022:
Sargassum is a brown seaweed dragged from the Atlantic Ocean to the Caribbean. Sargassum is a refuge and habitat for many species, such as plants, crustaceans, birds, fish, turtles, and even whales. It has gas-filled vesicles that help it stay afloat and prevent it from sticking to the seafloor.
In an average environment, when sargassum reaches the coasts, it provides fertilizers and promotes the biodiversity of marine birds and wildlife.
When sargassum accumulates in atypical quantities, the algae rot and emit toxic gases, causing the death of native species. There are several hypotheses about the origin of sargassum in the Caribbean, such as the change of Atlantic currents, the deforestation of the Amazon, and the increase of nutrients generated by human activity, which fertilize the algae and favor their growth.
The first massive arrival of sargassum in Mexican Caribbean waters was recorded in 2013 and continued during the following years. In 2019, the Mexican Navy collected more than 85,000 tons of sargassum, a record figure so far.
Among the main problems derived from sargassum are:
Impact on the tourism industry by changing the color of the sea and producing foul odors.
Normally, tourists and visitors stay away from sargassum because it is unpleasant to the sight and touch. However, if you are a person who constantly handles these algae (cleaning staff, operators of sargassum removal machines, etc.) you should be careful when doing it because the algae tends to rot, generate bacteria and be a source of infection. Another threat you could face is stepping on an object hidden among the seaweed. If you plan to approach the sargassum, remember to wear closed shoes and gloves.
Although these algae can be unpleasant and smelly, in reality, they only affect a small percentage of the coasts of Quintana Roo. Cancun, the Riviera Maya, and the Mexican Caribbean islands are essential destinations for tourism in the country, which is why the government, tourism companies, and citizens are working to keep the beaches free of sargassum.
According to the Integral and Sustainable Management Plan for sargassum, some of the strategies that are carried out to keep the beaches clean of sargassum are:
Monitoring and early warning to know the points where sargassum will arrive and establish strategies for its control.
Containment and extraction of sargassum in open seas to avoid affecting coastal ecosystems like sea turtle nests.
Drying of sargassum to avoid environmental impact and use it for the production of products.
Promotion of social activities such as volunteering for beach cleanup.
On the other hand, hotels and tourism companies with establishments on the beach also invest resources to clean the portion of beach assigned to their land to offer their clients a sargassum-free experience.
Of course, these measures should not distract us from reality: Pollution of the seas is the cause of the large quantities of sargassum that reach the coasts, and it is our responsibility as a society to prevent this problem.
What products can be created with sargassum?
Sargassum is used to produce many products, for example:
Paper: Companies such as Sarganico produce sargassum-based products such as notebooks, business cards, and paper in general.
Fertilizers: Seaweeds are considered biological activators and organic biostimulants that increase nutrient content in plants. Learn more about this topic in this article on the application of seaweed for fertilization.
Bricks for construction: Sargassum is used to make organic bricks. These bricks are thermal and resistant to strong winds. Twenty tons of sargassum, equivalent to 2150 bricks, are used to build one house.