Swimmers find sargassum-free water about 30 meters out on a Playa del Carmen beach. Swimmers find sargassum-free water about 30 meters out on a Playa del Carmen beach.

Tourism secretary says sargassum situation is a national priority

Secretary Torruco said lack of a strategy by the previous government has allowed sargassum to become a 'Godzilla'

Tourism Secretary Miguel Torruco Marqués said President López Obrador has ordered that addressing sargassum invasions be considered a national priority.

“The president . . . has made the sargassum problem a national priority,” he said. “Every Thursday at 6:00am, we meet to discuss the issue. [The president] designated Navy Secretary José Rafael Ojeda Durán to coordinate our actions.”

Torruco criticized the previous government’s handling of the issue, noting that it spent 800 million pesos (US $42 million) on efforts to control the macroalgae between 2014 and 2018, but did not have a comprehensive strategy.

“The sargassum phenomenon started in Brazil, in the Amazon River,” he said. “It started because of mining and fertilizer. Now, it’s become a Godzilla.”

Torruco added that the current government has plans to address the problem in the short, medium and long terms.

Navy Secretary Ojeda has announced that the navy will spend 52 million pesos on a strategy to control sargassum, but that amount represents only 5.2% of the 1 billion pesos the government of Quintana Roo estimates will be necessary.

The navy strategy includes the construction of four sargassum-collecting boats, the first of which will be ready in a few weeks.

Torruco said the government is also building floating barriers to prevent sargassum from washing up on beaches.

López Obrador previously downplayed the sargassum issue, saying it was “not very serious,” and charging that an emergency declaration by the state of Quintana Roo was disproportionate to the gravity of the problem.

On Thursday, the Confederation of Chambers of Commerce, Services and Tourism (Concanaco-Servytur) announced that in light of falling hotel occupancy rates due to sargassum, hotels in the Mexican Caribbean will be offering discounts of between 15% and 25% this summer in an attempt to maintain an average of 80% hotel occupancy, which was the average for last summer.

Source: El Economista (sp), El Financiero (sp)

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