Sargassum Meeting

The sargassum is back in beaches across the Caribbean / Photos: Ian MacKenzie

Dr. Briggita Van Tuessenbroek sat down with a group of local media and explained what is happening with sargassum in the Riviera Maya


003A-rgbDr. Brigitta Van Tuessenbroek

Visitors to the beaches of the Riviera Maya will no doubt be aware of the return of sargassum. The problem has reached such a critical point that awareness of the issue has become important, both to inform the public of what is going on and as a means to generate dialogue in order to take effective action. So, on May 11, a meeting took place with invited members of the local media to listen to a presentation made by Dr. Briggita Van Tuessenbroek. She is a scientist and expert on sargassum. A summary of what she covered appears below.

Sargassum first made a major impact here in 2015, with tourism being the first major casualty, as visitors did not want to spend their beach time surrounded by the smelly seaweed. It was finally picked up in July and August that year; the largest collection took place in Tulum.

The sargassum that arrives here is thought to originate around the area of Brazil. When the circular movements of the currents weaken, it allows sargassum to escape and begin its journey. When sargassum enters the waters of the Caribbean it is in a rich feeding environment. The rate and intake of nutrients causes rapid growth, leading to a doubling in size.

While it is an important part of the ecosystem, it is harmful in many ways. Sargassum contains sulphuric acid, which is toxic, and humans who come in contact with the seaweed can end up with dermatitis or develop respiratory problems. Turtles are also greatly impacted, as it impedes the journey of hatchlings that want to get to the sea. Because of the sheer volume of the deposits on the beach, removal requires the use of heavy machinery, which in turn leads to erosion of the beach. The consequence of all this is erosion and destruction of the coastline, something which could take place in twenty to sixty years. It is not only here that is affected, it is all across the Caribbean.

Closing out the meeting, Dr. Van Tuessenbroek emphasized the need for an integrated system in order to deal with this issue. Beaches are dynamic and ever changing, but there are many ways in which people can stimulate and help nature.


Editor´s Note: As soon as we learn more about the suggested integrated system to deal with the sargassum, we will share it with you.