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Sargaceros at work on a Cancún beach. Sargaceros at work on a Cancún beach.

Wanted: sargaceros to shovel stinky seaweed for 8 hours a day

'It's frustrating: what's removed in eight hours nature returns in 45 minutes'

Seasonal job opportunity in Quintana Roo: sargassum shoveler.

Pay: 5,000 pesos (US $260) a month for eight hours of work per day.

Conditions: harsh.

Since seasonal invasions of the smelly and unsightly brown seaweed began to increase in 2015, hoteliers in Cancún have been forced to employ so-called sargaceros to keep the resort city’s white-sand beaches clean.

Sargassum shovelers typically start their eight-hours shifts under the strong Caribbean coast sun at 6:00am and work throughout the day, gathering the seaweed into large piles with spades and pitchforks and then removing it from the beach using nets.

“It’s a frustrating job because what’s cleaned in eight hours, nature returns in 45 minutes,” said Roberto Cintrón, president of the Cancún and Puerto Morelos Hotels Association.

He described sargaceros’ work days as “very exhausting,” pointing out that one cubic meter of wet sargassum can weigh more than 250 kilograms. Six men are needed to move a net filled with the seaweed, Cintrón said.

“It’s very tiresome for us; after a while your back hurts and your muscles can’t take it anymore,” said hotel employee Alexis Esquivel.

“A little bit of help from the government wouldn’t be bad,” he added.

“Every day is a struggle that never finishes, it’s very difficult,” said Jorge Estrella, a hotel lifeguard who also works as a sargacero.

In addition to being frustrating and physically draining, the job of a sargassum shoveler is also stinky – the smell of the decomposing seaweed is often compared to rotten fish.

But someone has to do it.

With the arrival of more than one million tonnes of sargassum predicted this year, and claims that authorities are not doing enough to combat the problem, more sargaceros than ever are likely to be required this year.

Applications accepted at most hotels located on the Mexican Caribbean coast.

Source: Milenio (sp) 

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