Friday, December 1, 2023

Sargassum strategy discussed as weed returns to Quintana Roo beaches

All levels of government in Quintana Roo are discussing measures to deal with sargassum after the weed began returning to some of the state’s beaches in the past week.

The brown, smelly seaweed has become a serious problem for the state, a threat to tourism and the ecology. And it’s probably not getting any better.

A researcher predicted in January that this could be another bad year.

A recent meeting headed by federal Tourism Secretary Miguel Torruco approved a plan with short and long-term measures to face the invasion. Officials say that dealing with the problem is vitally important not only because of the state economy’s dependence on tourism, but to protect coastal ecosystems from the acidic weed.

In meetings that have included politicians, business owners and scientists, a variety of strategies have been put forward to deal with the seaweed.

The mayor of the municipality in which Playa del Carmen is located said 13 projects presented in January to counteract the seaweed have been analyzed.

But Cancún hotelier José Chapur stressed that more than one company will be required to deal with a problem that extends from Punta Cancún to Tulum.

Not only that, but it will be necessary to determine which are prepared to guarantee results, because some of the previous efforts have not been successful, he said.

State authorities plan to use special boats and machinery to collect the seaweed while it is in the water, erect containment barriers and prepare to transport the the algae that has been collected.

State officials estimate that eliminating sargassum from the state’s beaches will cost at least US $41 million this year. Governor Carlos Joaquín González said the money was simply not in the state’s budget and that he was considering drawing on the natural disaster fund.

Some have suggested that the weed could be processed and used as industrial material for projects such as President López Obrador’s Maya Train.

As more of the floating algae returns to Quintana Roo’s shores, Tourism Secretary Torruco said “the management of sargassum is an issue that concerns us all. It is important to establish better control strategies every day for this environmental phenomenon.”

If conditions are right, the plant can double its mass in a 20-day period. The quantity of seaweed arriving exploded in 2014 and  has doubled since 2015.

Source: Milenio (sp), Riviera Maya News (en), Televisa (sp)

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