Mexico’s Caribbean coast continues to battle against record levels of seaweed

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Carlos Rosado van der Gracht
Carlos Rosado van der Gracht
Born in Mérida, Carlos Rosado van der Gracht is a Mexican/Canadian blogger, photographer and adventure expedition leader. He holds degrees in multimedia, philosophy and translation from universities in Mexico, Canada and Norway. Sign up for the Yucatán Roundup, a free newsletter, which delivers the week's top headlines every Monday.
Aerial view of Cancún’s seaweed-covered coastline. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

Beaches along much of Mexico’s Caribbean coast are covered with seaweed, also known as sargassum. 

But Mexico is not alone. Several Caribbean destinations including Puerto Rico to Barbados are suffering from a similar fate.

Workers attempt to stem the tide of seaweed that is currently infesting Cancún’s beaches. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazaine

The presence of seaweed in the Caribbean is nothing new, but has increased dramatically over the past few years.

Along several beaches such as Cancún and Playa del Carmen, large clean-up crews gather as much of the seaweed as possible, often with the aid of specialized equipment. 

Even vehicles designed to remove seaweed from Cancún’s beaches are proving to be unequal to the task. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

“This is extremely concerning. Seaweed concentration in the Caribbean is up 20% since 2018, which itself broke several records,” said a professor of Oceanography at USF, Chuanmin Hu on NPR.

Earlier: Yucatán eyes Quintana Roo’s tourists as violence and sargassum crisis worsen

The situation has become so dire that the federal government has ordered the Navy to aid in cleanup efforts. 

There are, however, spots along Mexico’s Caribbean coast that still remain almost entirely seaweed free, such as Isla Mujeres and parts of Cozumel.  

Also virtually intact are Yucatán’s beaches on much of the Gulf of Mexico, such as Progreso, Sisal, and Celestún

Aerial view of Sisal’s coastline taken during the summer of 2022. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

Sargasso is a type of brown macroalgae found in temperate and tropical oceans around the world. It typically inhabits shallow water and coral reefs. 

Scientists believe that the proliferation of sargassum over the last decade in the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico is caused by rising sea temperatures associated with global warming.

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