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Monday, November 29, 2021

Scientists warn of a potential environmental disaster on Yucatán beaches

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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.
A particularly sargassum-filled section of the beach in Cancún in May of this year. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

Record-breaking amounts of sargassum could soon reach the Peninsula, scientists said at a Mérida conference. 

Attendees agreed that greater action is required on behalf of the private and public sectors to mitigate the worst effects of this environmental phenomena. 

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

Sargassum has become a seasonal problem on the Yucatán Peninsula, as it turns the region’s otherwise beautiful coastline into an unsightly, stinky mess and a potential health hazard. 

“The breakdown of sargassum can proliferate the spread of bacteria and fungi that can be harmful to human beings, especially if they seep down the water table,” said Rosa Leal Bautista of the CICY water sciences department. 

Earlier: Is river pollution to blame for the explosion of sargassum growth?

While resorts on the Caribbean side have constructed barriers to offset the attack, no such precautions have been installed on the Gulf coast.

It is widely accepted that the uptick of sargassum in the Gulf of Mexico is the direct result of human-caused climate change. 

Great swaths of sargassum originating from Atlantic waters off South America are also expected to wash up onto coastlines in Florida and much of the Caribbean.

Last May the problem became so bad that President Andrés Manuel López Obrador deployed Mexico’s navy to remove over 10,000 tons of sargassum from Quintana Roo’s coastline. 

So far, the worst year on record for sargassum on the Yucatán Peninsula was 2019. But tourism and government officials fear that a further uptick could threaten the region’s economic recovery. 

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