Sargassum returns: Unsightly algae returns to the Riviera Maya

Sargassum on Cancun beaches in 2019. Photo: File
Sargassum on Cancún beaches in 2019. Photo: File

Beachgoers in Quintana Roo have begun to notice the return of sargassum.

The floating, brown seaweed has been spotted on several beaches including Tulum and Playa del Carmen.

Tourism authorities in Quintana Roo said they expect only a moderate uptick in sargassum but have already begun to prepare cleanup crews. 

“The amount of sargassum is not as severe as we have seen in past years, nor have we found it on all beaches,” said Quintana Roo tourism secretary Marisol Vanegas Pérez.

From 2019: Sargassum tide 4 times the size of Mérida headed to Yucatan’s Gulf Coast

Hotel operators and tourism authorities worry that the arrival of large amounts of sargassum could further hurt the tourism industry, as it continues to suffer from the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In 2019 massive amounts of sargassum washed up onto the shores of Cancun, making entering the ocean impossible, and very smelly, in some areas. 

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. 

The decomposition of sargassum along coastlines can consume large amounts of oxygen, resulting in the death of fish. 

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.