Credit: Benedicte Desrus/Sipa USA/Newscom | Workers remove Sargassum from a beach in Tulum, Mexico. Mexico has cleared more than 500,000 metric tons of the seaweed from its beaches since it arrived in 2011.

Mexico - New Initiatives to Tackle Sargassum on Mexico's Beautiful Caribbean Beaches

Mexico’s beautiful Caribbean beaches with their turquoise waters and endless white sand have been experiencing a phenomenon that started last decade which pollutes many beaches around the Riviera: the sargassum blooms.

Sargassum is a brown marine macroalgae of the genus Sargassum and can be seen floating on the surface of the ocean. In marine areas, sargassum forms essential ecosystems for the health of the oceans and provides environmental goods and services for human activities. However, when these algae reach coastal areas they have negative effects on nature and the environment, communities and sectors such as fishing and tourism.

The warming of the oceans increases the presence of this algae on the beaches of the Riviera Maya, affecting many industries that depend on these destinations and ecosystems. When on the beach, sargassum forms brown spots up to 150 linear meters and gives off an unpleasant rotten smell, strong enough to keep tourists away.

There are records of the presence of sargassum in the Atlantic from the 15th century with the discovery of the Sargassum Sea, but since 2011 the presence and amount of this algae in the Caribbean Sea have been higher than normal. Since 2014 sargassum has become the uncomfortable guest on the beaches and coasts of Quintana Roo, in the South of Mexico, before then the quantities were not a big of a problem.

Wang Graphic: Sargassum levels

An immense and thick brown tide of algae that due to climate change and the acidification of the oceans, proliferates in the water and reaches the coasts of several Caribbean countries. Every year the problem of sargassum blurs the beauty of the sun and beaches offered by some of the most visited destinations in Mexico and affects not only tourism; scientific studies have shown that its decomposition impacts ecosystems, prevents light from filtering into the water and it contains a remarkable amount of heavy metals and dangerous bacteria.

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