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New wave of sargassum hits Quintana Roo with a vengeance

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Carlos Rosado van der Gracht
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Projections made earlier in the year called only for a modest amount of sargassum in Quintana Roo, but the problem seems to have actually worsened. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

It’s requiring heavy machinery to remove tons of sargassum across Quintana Roo’s beaches. 

The most affected areas include beaches on the state’s southern coast, but large patches of seaweed have extended all the way north to the tourist mecca of Cancun. 

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

The influx of rotting seaweed threatens Quintana Roo’s embattled tourism industry, which in the last few months has begun to recover ground lost since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Residents in Mahahual have been removing sargassum for weeks by hand, but to their relief, authorities have now brought in trucks capable of removing large amounts at a time.

Authorities in Mahahual say that they have already cleared several tons of sargassum from the town’s beaches. Photo: Courtesy

The problem has made national news headlines, with President Andrés Manuel López Obrador going as far as enlisting the help of the Navy

Earlier: Baby turtles head to sea with help of international residents

But specialists warn that a massive new wave of sargassum could be on its way. 

Quintana Roo’s sargassum monitoring network says that it has detected three new large patches of seaweed headed to the coast. 

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.

Quintana Roo is home to some of Mexico’s most popular tourist destinations, from Tulum to Playa del Carmen to Cancun, where 8.7% of Mexico’s gross domestic product is derived.

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