Thursday, March 30, 2023

Mexico says seaweed collection boats doing poorly

MEXICO CITY ( Associated Press) – The chief of Mexico’s navy acknowledged Wednesday that the country’s Caribbean coast is facing an unusual problem with a type of seaweed known as sargassum, and that the Navy The boats assigned to catch it before it floats ashore are doing poorly.

Navy Secretary Jose Ojeda said boats sit in water with low freeboard – the space between the sides of the boat and the waterline – making them risky to operate when there are waves.

He acknowledged that nearly all of the recently collected Sargassum – a brown alga – had not been caught in the ocean.

“We’re certainly trying to stop it from reaching the beaches, but sometimes it’s complicated because of the tides or bad weather,” Ojeda said. “We can’t take boats out, they have little to do with what we call freeboard … and it’s risky to take them out.”

The Navy currently has 11 Sargassum gathering boats operating in the area. But the Navy’s own figures show that the portion they were able to collect before hitting the beach is falling.

In 2020, the Navy collected 4% of the sargasm at sea, while 96% was extracted from the beaches. But this figure fell to 3% in 2021 and to around 1% by April 2022.

Ojeda said the amount collected at sea in the last week of May was about 4%.

Ojeda advocated establishing more temporary barriers, but acknowledged that there were problems with that approach as well.

Cancun’s resort hasn’t been hit as hard as the Riviera Maya this year, just south. A carpet of Sargassum extends from there almost all the way down to Tulum in the south.

On Friday, an independent monitoring network estimated that 45 of the 80 beaches monitored on the Caribbean coast had “excessive” or large amounts of sargasm. Only three beaches – including two on the island of Isla Mujeres – had none.

“Yeah, there’s been more than in previous years, it’s overtaken us,” Ojeda admitted. “We know it’s affecting tourism in some places, some beaches.”

The arrival of heaps of brown sargassum on the coast’s normally pristine white sand beaches comes as tourism recovers to pre-pandemic levels, although job recovery has been slow in the country’s top tourist destination.

With more algae floating in the ocean, experts fear 2022 could be as bad or worse than the disastrous year of 2018, the biggest sargassum wave ever.

Sargassum was not a problem on Mexico’s Caribbean coast prior to 2014. Preliminary reports from 2010 suggested that the seaweed mass came from an area in the Atlantic off the north coast of Brazil, near the mouth of the Amazon River. Increased nutrients from deforestation or fertilizer runoff can feed algae blooms.

But other factors may contribute, such as nutrient flow from the Congo River, an increase in nutrient-laden deep-sea waters in the tropical Atlantic, and blowing dust from Africa.

Nation World News Desk
Nation World News Desk
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