Monday, June 24, 2024

A sargassum-free summer on Quintana Roo beaches?

The Quintana Roo Sargassum Monitoring Network is predicting low levels of sargassum seaweed this summer on Quintana Roo’s popular coastline, which includes the destinations of Cancún, Playa del Carmen and Tulum. 

Esteban Jesús Amaro Mauricio, the network’s director, announced that little sargassum is expected to wash up on the state’s beaches in the next three months. The reports are based on daily monitoring from the sargassum’s origin point near Africa to the coasts of the Yucatán Peninsula.

Sargassum in the sea
The seaweed travels from the African coast, across the Atlantic where it washes up on many popular tourist beaches. (Vely Michel/Wikimedia)

Amaro explained that the seaweed travels 3,000 kilometers (1,864 miles) along the Arch of Antilles — a group of volcanic islands forming the eastern boundary of the Caribbean Plate — at about 1,000 kilometers per month. Based on this information, Mexico’s Caribbean coast should be free from sargassum this summer, or at least experience manageable levels. 

Sargassum is a macroalgae that can cause a foul odor when it decomposes, and its landfall on Quintana Roo beaches typically peaks in June and July. This season, however, low levels have been reported

Amaro noted that while there is a large amount of sargassum in the Atlantic Ocean, it appears to be moving northwest, avoiding Mexico’s eastern beaches. This directional shift is attributed to an increase in water temperature. 

“From what we have been observing via satellite, there is almost no sargassum between Jamaica and the Yucatán Peninsula, and it is expected that — because the sargassum has been moving north — we are not going to have a significant presence [of sargassum],” he said.

Sargassum on a beach near Playa del Carmen.
Sargassum on a beach near Playa del Carmen. The foul-smelling seaweed has caused problems for tourists in recent years. (Depositphotos)

Nearly all of the beaches in Quintana Roo are currently listed as “green” – meaning low levels of sargassum. Some beaches on the east coast of Cozumel and those between Puerto Morelos and Punta Nizuc are rated “yellow” or moderate, although the eastern coast of Cozumel is rated as ‘abundant’.

The Quintana Roo Tourism Promotion Council (CPTQ) predicted that the Caribbean coast of Mexico is expected to see 500,000 tourists per week during the summer vacation period.

With reports from La Jornada Maya and Excelsior

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