Sargassum continues to plague the Caribbean, including Belize; tourism industry affected

The Sargassum seaweed crisis continues to affect the coasts of many countries within the Caribbean Sea, southern Mexico, and the Central American region. Belize continues to struggle with its share, and efforts on Ambergris Caye to contain the non-stop influx have resulted in the removal of approximately 1,764 tons of Sargassum from the beginning of February to August of this year. The works by The San Pedro Town Council (SPTC), covers an area of approximately one mile, beginning from the public library, across the Roman Catholic Primary School, and north to the Sir Barry Bowen Bridge by Boca del Rio.

Local authorities have concentrated on removing the daily accumulation of Sargasso within the town core area, particularly on the Boca del Rio beach. SPTC personnel in charge of the clean-up stated that the community, particularly the business sector, has been helping to clean up other parts of the island, particularly in front of their establishments. However, all efforts to keep the island free of the seaweed seems to be fruitless. According to the maintenance department of the SPTC, they remove truckloads of Sargassum on a daily basis, but by the next day, the downtown beach area is full of seaweed again. Many businesses along the coast continue to be affected by Sargassum, which rots shortly after reaching the shores, expelling a strong sulfuric-odor from the decaying biomass. Several beach restaurants and bars say that their clientele has decreased due to the bad smell. “People seldom come to the beach, and if they do come, they do not stay long because of the bad situation with the Sargassum. We try to clean as much as we can, but the fight is hard against this seaweed,” said one concerned business owner. The issue has impacted not only the tourism business but also the marine life near the coastline. The thick Sargassum mats have on three different occasions this year, caused the death of hundreds of fish along the eastern coast of the island. According to the Hol Chan Marine Reserve, the seaweed consumes all the oxygen out of the surrounding water causing fish and other marine creatures in the immediate area to die.

In Mexico, from Cancun to Chetumal Quintana Roo, hundreds of thousands of metric meters have been cleaned with little success. Due to this massive influx that continues to threaten their tourism industry like in Belize, the Mexican authorities have come up with a plan to stop the Sargassum from reaching their shores. They have started a project consisting of Sargassum barriers to be placed from Cancun to Chetumal, resistant to waves and supported with seabed anchoring. It is expected that the barriers will redirect the collected Sargassum away from the beaches. According to the manufacturer, the barriers are a technique for the control of natural and artificial marine contingencies and are composed of a floating system and polyvinyl coated canvas with additives for ultraviolet ray resistance.

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