Update on Sargassum Seaweed Affecting Mexico’s Beaches

The continued presence of sargassum seaweed (a.k.a sargasso, sargazo) on the beaches of Mexico continues to be a concern to many travelers. For those wondering what their experience will be like on their upcoming vacation, we invite you to read more about the problem and how local authorities, hotels, and students are handling the situation.

Latest on sargassum

The 2022 sargassum season began at the beginning of spring due to a rise in sea temperature, which accelerates the reproduction of the seaweed. As the days get warmer, the presence of sargassum is expected to increase. Beaches with the highest seaweed count include Playa del Carmen, Tulum, and some points between Cancun and Puerto Morelos.

The Mexican government and hotels in the Yucatan Peninsula have stepped up their efforts to tackle it, however, the majority of low-budget hotels and hostels do not have the means to clean their beaches on a daily basis.

If you’re keen to avoid sargassum on your Mexico visit, make sure to stay in a hotel that has staff constantly monitoring the ever-changing situation and has the means to tackle the issue.

Plan your vacation with Journey Mexico and we can help you find a hotel that has the means and resources to clean their beaches every day and keep your vacation as sargassum-free as possible.

Read on to discover the latest news on sargassum…

Read more: 5 Mexican Beach Destinations Without Sargassum


Latest news on sargassum seaweed

Rear Admiral César Gustavo Ramírez Torralba, Coordinator of the Sargassum Attention Strategy and Secretary of the Navy, has reported that in the coming days, a barrier will be stationed in front of Puerto Morelos.

In the first week of April the sea barrier will be installed in Playa del Carmen, and again in Tulum in the second week of April. In Mahahual, progress stands at 500 meters of installation, with completion expected this week. Rear Admiral López added that sargassum collection vessels will also be used at sea to catch sargassum before it reaches the coast.

The Governor of the state of Quintana Roo, home to the Riviera Maya, has commented “We know this is a natural phenomenon that generates adverse conditions, but we will be working with the Secretary of the Navy, the municipalities, hotels and the private initiative with our best efforts to keep the beaches clean so that they continue to be a great tourist attraction,”.

Read more: https://www.riviera-maya-news.com/the-race-against-the-arrival-of-sargassum-begins-with-officials-scrambling-to-install-sea-barriers/2022.html  (Updated March 23, 2022) 

According to Rear Admiral César Gustavo Ramírez Torralba, Coordinator of the Sargassum Attention Strategy and Secretary of the Navy, Cancun, Riviera Maya region forecasting less Sargassum Seaweed in 2021.

Torralba announced that 9,320 meters (30,578 feet) of containment barriers were installed just off the beaches of Puerto Morelos, Solidaridad, Tulum, and Mahahual and Xcalak and 11 vessels will be dedicated to the purpose in shallow waters off the coasts of Benito Juárez (Cancún), Puerto Morelos, Solidaridad (Playa del Carmen), Tulum and Othón P. Blanco (Mahahual, Xcalak).

Additionally, this year, an ocean vessel will be incorporated that will allow collection from the sea in various areas, depending on the largest sargassum concentrations.



Beach pictures from hotels in the Mexican Caribbean

Updated March 2022: As part of our on-going efforts to monitor the sargassum seaweed situation, we are in regular contact with our hotels in the affected areas.

Below are the latest images from the Riviera Maya and Isla Holbox:

Tulum, Sep, 2022.

Tulum, Sep, 2022.

Tulum, Sep, 2022.

Tulum, Sep, 2022.

Tulum, Sep, 2022.

Tulum, Sep, 2022.

Andaz Mayakoba, Sep, 2022.

Andaz Mayakoba, Sep, 2022.

Andaz Mayakoba, Sep, 2022.

Andaz Mayakoba, Sep, 2022.

 


 

What action are the hotels taking?

Paradisus Playa del Carmen: When sargassum is present on the beach, the hotel manually cleans the seaweed throughout the day. 

Andaz Mayakoba: When sargassum presents, the resort sends a boat out to fish the seaweed out of deep waters and a team of 20 people manually cleans the beaches daily. 

Jashita: In the case of sargassum, the hotel has a team of people that manually clean the beach throughout the day. 

Banyan Tree Mayakoba: When the seaweed appears, the resort´s staff clean the beach daily. Depending on the volume of sargassum, this may be done manually or using machinery. 

Chable Maroma: The hotel carries out daily cleaning when necessary, employing a tractor and team of staff from 7am to 3pm.  



 

Sargassum seaweed map

Check out the Sargassum seaweed map below to see which parts of Mexico have been affected. Last updated September 13, 2022.

Credit: Red de Monitoreo del Sargazo Cancun




Everything you need to know about sargassum

What is sargassum?

Sargassum is a brown seaweed with buoyant, oxygen-filled bladders that keep it floating on the surface of the water. It can clump together in huge masses, often miles long, and has been known to wash up on the shores of beaches along the Caribbean coast from the United States all the way to Argentina.

Sargassum
Credit: Clinton & Charles Roberts

As reported in our post “Mexico and Mother Nature – What you Need to Know 2015“,  the sargassum occurrence — which has many ecological benefits — is not dangerous nor continuous and often unpredictable. One week there may be large mounds of seaweed heaped on the beaches and obscuring the translucent sea, while others the beaches are perfectly clean.

Many hotels are taking measures to provide clear beach access through clearing the seaweed and removing it from the beach, while others are unable or unwilling to do so due to a lack of human and financial resources, an unwillingness to alter naturally occurring patterns or long-term concerns that the seaweed will actually protect and enhance their beaches.

The seaweed accumulation has been most prolific on stretches of exposed beach and less noticeable in areas that are protected by natural headlands, bays, or coves. Read more: What You Need to Know about Sargassum Invading the Caribbean.

Where is it coming from?

To find out exactly where sargassum is coming from and how it ends up on Mexico’s coast, we spoke to Florida Atlantic University’s Dr Brian Lapointe, a research professor and leading expert on sargassum.

He told us that, after studying satellite imagery, it’s understood there is a large amount of seaweed growing between the coast of Africa and Brazil, an area they have coined the Great Atlantic Sargassum Belt.

In that region, there is a range of nutrient sources that are feeding the sargassum and helping it to bloom. These include nutrient-rich run-off from the Amazon River and the Orinoco. There is also a phenomenon known as upwelling, in which nutritious seawater rises from the bottom to the top of the ocean, which helps to feed the floating plant.

Dr Lapointe also pointed out that he has seen areas of low temperature off the coast of Africa, which could indicate nitrogen is coming from the deep seas. Other sources of nutrients include Saharan dust coming from Africa.

The seaweed is moved from the Great Atlantic Sargassum Belt to Mexico and the Caribbean region by hitching a ride on currents. As it makes it way along these streams, the sargassum picks up more and more nutrients and continues to grow.

Sargassum seaweed facts

  • Floating sargassum rafts provide a wonderful natural habitat for many sea creatures. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, fish, sea turtles, marine birds, crabs, shrimp, and more all call this floating island home.
  • There are more than 300 different species of sargassum including sargassium muticum (more commonly known as Japanese wireweed), and sargassum horneri (also known as devil weed).
  • The Sargasso Sea is the only sea in the world without a land bordering it and, as you might expect, is home to large swathes of floating sargassum seaweed. The sea itself was reportedly discovered by explorer Christopher Columbus and his crew who crossed it in 1492.
  • In 2018, Quintana Roo businessman Omar Vázquez Sánchez made good use of the local sargassum build-up when he built an earthquake- and hurricane-resistant home from a mixture of sargassum and adobe.

HISTORY OF SARGASSUM

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