July Attack of the Dreaded SARGAZO

So how many names does the dreaded, nasty SEAGRASS have now-it started as Sargassum, then Sargasso, now Sargazo or Kelp-whatever you want to call I think we all agree most of us call it NASTY! It can smell terrible, it looks terrible, creates terrible problems for water activity, and it is just plain TERRIBLE !!  Some areas have endured more than normal load of the stuff for over a year now, but the last two weeks of July have brought an awareness that this is a SERIOUS concern.

The magnitude of Sargazo became apparent when local publications in Quintana Roo printed pictures showing the huge amounts at the beach line of the white shores of Cancun Hotel Zone. Realization that this issue is getting worse not better called officials to try to come to some solution for safe removal and to save the tourism concerns, but to first ensure that the ecological balance was kept.  A meeting was held and a declaration was presented from the Grupo Tortuguero del Caribe on the removal process of the Sargazo as recognized a necessity for the Hotels and business on the beach and tourism concerns, environmental responsibility must be taken in the removal so not to interrupt the structural stability of the beach, dune and marine species that inhabit the State. A list of requirements was declared and approved that ensures businesses on the beach work in conjunction with an official from CONANP (National Commission of Natural Protected Areas) and/or member of Grupo Tortuguero Caribe. Limitations were placed on the type of equipment and hours it can be used, instructions were given not to bury the Sargazo in nesting areas, requirements were made for an appropriate sea turtle conservator to review the plan for removal and a stipulation that work would halt if hatchlings or other marine species appeared during removal. This was a great start for protection of turtles during cleanup.

On June 24th, SIPSE.com reported that CONANP and SEMARNAT had received $12 million pesos to employee 4000 temporary employees to assist the government with “kelp” removal. “This is a phenomenon not seen before on the beaches of Mexico or the rest of the Caribbean. Let’s be clear: it is a phenomenon that is being addressed; together the three levels of government will solve,” said Federal Secretary of Tourism, Claudia Ruiz Massieu Salina. Recent reports note that $12 million pesos is not enough – it would take $60 million pesos to complete the recovery process for beaches and tourism.
This kelp that we have known for many years has turned this year into a national crisis for the state of Quintana Roo. Many scientists and biologists are posting assumptions on why the large amount is here, but no documented proof has been published. Some feel it is the heat of the water, some feel it is due to the BP oil spill, some feel the earth has turned on it’s axis, some say it is coming from Amazon, some others think the sand of the Sahara and nutrients of the River Congo in Central Africa have something to do with it – you can hear and read much research and assumptions.
Tourism of course is a major concern but great to see the government is making environmental aspects of removal a priority! And it’s a great time to see other areas of Mexico while Mother Nature does her thing!
We have seen so much good in Akumal Bay with clean up efforts of employees of LolHa Restaurant and Snack bar and the Dive Center, the Wallacea students from the UK here working with CEA were out helping teams clean.  Business owner David from  Comal de Akumal donated cold glasses of Jamaica and Tamarind juices.  Say an extra thank you to management and employees when you frequent local businesses.

*Noti Tulum

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