In our May newsletter we reported on the unusual amounts of seaweed that are washing ashore on beaches throughout the Mexican Caribbean. This is still occurring and is not confined to the state of Quintana Roo. The Caribbean islands and the Gulf coast of the United States are having similar experiences.
Beach cleaning is being carried out on a daily basis in Cancun, Puerto Morelos, Playa del Carmen, Cozumel and other resort areas such as Akumal, Tulum and Mahahual. In the third week of July, the Federal Government authorized additional funds for Municipal governments to hire more people to clean the beaches and conservation groups, soldiers and people from all walks of life are also volunteering to help remove the seaweed that washes ashore.
As it is sea turtle nesting season seaweed is being removed manually on beaches where there are nests in situ. There are restrictions on heavy machinery that could damage nests and crush the eggs. Most of the hotels in Cancun participate in the turtle protection program and transport the eggs further up the beach to special enclosures or turtle nurseries, diggers are permitted during the morning and not at night when turtles are emerging to lay their eggs. In Puerto Morelos, diggers are also operating on beaches that are not turtle nesting sites.
Municipal authorities are working with local biologists on a cleaning and disposal plan for the seaweed. Once the salt has leached out it can be composted and used as a fertilizer. In Puerto Morelos, some of the seaweed removed from the beaches is being deposited in an old quarry and it will eventually be used in the parks and gardens. In other areas, the seaweed is being buried in the dunes and the soil formed will boost plant growth and help protect the shoreline from erosion.
Government officials are also in contact with experts from universities in the United States who are monitoring floating patches of seaweed and the ocean currents that transport them north through the Caribbean. As yet the origin of this year’s bloom is still unclear.
There are several theories about what is causing so much seaweed. Increasing sea temperatures due to climate change and excessive nutrients in the water from fertilizers and waste water may cause seaweed to proliferate. Other scientists believe that it may be one of the environmental impacts of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
It is important to note that the seaweed is completely harmless and it is also a haven for many creatures such as shells, tiny crabs, baby turtles and fish.
We will keep you posted on the seaweed and plans to clean the beaches.