Tuesday, June 25, 2024

A ‘startling discovery’ in the Caribbean could bring sargassum to Quintana Roo beaches

The yellow-brown seaweed known as sargassum may start to invade Quintana Roo beaches as early as February, accumulating through October.

According to specialists monitoring sargassum in the Atlantic Ocean, a mass of nearly five million tons of macroalgae is moving westward from the Caribbean and has the potential to bring record levels of the seaweed to Mexico and Central America in the next months.

The mass of sargassum, identified by oceanographers from the University of South Florida in December, is nearly five times larger than the mass registered in the same month of the previous year.

The “startling discovery,” as described by the group Sargassum Monitoring, was located between Saint Martin and the Cape Verde Islands on Jan. 9. It is expected to reach the northern Antilles in approximately three weeks, the Dominican Republic in March, and potentially Florida and Mexico by April or May, according to the group’s forecasts.

State Environment Minister Josefina Huggette Hernández said that the Quintana Roo Technical Council for Sargassum Management is closely following the mass and will alert in case it reaches the coast earlier than expected.

Sargassum is a leafy type of seaweed that floats in a giant mass over the Atlantic, functioning as a habitat for small marine animals while ​​soaking up carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Starting in 2011, however, that mass began multiplying in volume, leading to annual “invasions” of washed-up sargassum, particularly along beaches in the Caribbean. Water pollutants and climate change have shown to contribute to the presence of the seaweed.

The season for sargassum in southeastern Mexico typically begins in late spring and concludes in early fall, peaking in the months of April and May.

In December, the “sargassum stoplight” for Quintana Roo was green, meaning that sargassum levels on the state’s beaches are currently low, with only 6.5% reporting moderate sargassum. On Jan. 15, Holbox, Isla Contoy, Costa Mujeres, Isla Mujeres and Chetumal were reported to be seaweed-free.

With reports from PorEsto and DRV Noticias

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