Mexico City, Jun 1 (EFE).- Authorities said Wednesday that much larger quantities of sargassum have piled up on beaches in Mexico’s Caribbean region in 2022 compared to previous years, noting that 19,000 tons have been collected thus far and the situation is adversely affecting tourism in the southeastern states of Quintano Roo and Yucatan.
The accumulation of that seaweed, or floating brown algae, “has been very different than in previous years,” Navy Secretary Rafael Ojeda said during a morning press conference at Mexico City’s National Palace, adding that efforts are being made to “keep it from arriving on beaches.”
He also acknowledged that the sargassum buildup is “affecting tourism at some beaches” but said there is a strong determination to combat the problem.
Ojeda recalled that federal and state authorities are working to gather and remove the excess sargassum that has accumulated on at least 20 beaches in Quintana Roo, with particularly high concentrations in the northern part of that state.
“We have the personnel (to address the problem), and we’re coordinating with the government of that state and the municipalities,” the Navy secretary said, though lamenting that the ocean currents are not helping the situation.
Sargassum originates in the Sargasso Sea, a 2-million-square-nautical-mile expanse of the Atlantic Ocean located east of Bermuda and bound by a system of circulating ocean currents.
Since 2014, a shift in winds has caused sargassum to exit that Atlantic region and accumulate between the coasts of Africa and Brazil, where ocean currents then carry it westward to the Caribbean Sea and on to Mexico’s southeast coast, the country’s main tourist destination.
Scientists say the increase in the amount of sargassum in the ocean could be due to higher water temperatures and the dumping of organic waste in the rivers of Central America, a phenomenon that accelerates algae’s life cycle and reproduction.
Algae are currently capable of doubling their biomass in 11 days, compared to 50 days previously. EFE