The Sargassum Situation

We have featured stories on the sargassum plague countless times on this newscast. In the beginning of this year, we told you about CRFM's fact finding study to find out how and why it is affecting the Caribbean. Well, while that study is being conducted, residents on the ground in Belize especially on the islands and coastal communities have to deal with the unsightly heaps and unbearable stench of the sargassum as it accumulates and decays on the beach.

As you can imagine, it's having a direct effect on the tourism product and properties. We spoke to the Reservations Manager at The Palms Ocean Front Property on San Pedro and she told us that it is getting harder to control and it is jeopardizing their business.

Ana Ico, The Palms Ocean Front Property Reservations Manager
"Well San Pedro has a real serious problem with Sargassum because first we used to have enough sargassum and people used to use it for landfill but now the amounts are really a lot that now we don't even have the human resource to come and get it off the beach as quickly as we would like it to be off and not only that when it starts to decompose or rotten, then you have that smell and of course people are allergic to it and they start coughing and that stuff, all our metals start getting black and so it is affecting us a lot especially on our beaches because they are starting to erode. I don't know if you walk the beaches it is starting to erode a lot and I have never seen our beaches in front of the Palm's as bad as they are now."

"The tourists want to come here to enjoy the beaches and if you go there right now you can't enjoy the beaches because it is piled up and what they do is go on the west side of the island and try to go to spots that are there instead of staying where they are and paying that amount of money to get that view and the beach so you know it is affecting us both ways."

"What I know is BTB had asked us to take a percentage of the tax that is what we use to pay the people to rake the beach and take away the sargassum, however mother nature seems to be real mad at us so it is more than we can actually handle with what we have right now."

Ico says the sargassum is worse on the north side of the island.

Ministers Seeking The Sargassum Solution

Area representative for Belize Rural South, Manuel Juniour Heredia has to deal with this issue on the ground and at the policy level. He says it's only going to get worse on the ground, and that's why regional tourism ministers are meeting urgently at the end of this month to discuss solutions:…

Mexico's Riviera Maya along the Yucatan Peninsula is also reporting a major influx of Sargassum.

Channel 7

Belize, Caribbean in Danger as Sargassum Invasion will be Much Worse

In 2018, News Five took a look at the crippling effects of sargassum, a brown, foul and invasive microalga. In October of last year, the Ministry of Tourism and the Belize Tourism Board worked on a plan to deal with the influx of sargassum which began affecting at least four top tourist destinations in Belize. While it was thought that 2018 was bad in terms of the sargassum invasion, 2020 is looking to be the worse year yet. Researchers from the National Autonomous University of Mexico warned on Tuesday that the Caribbean is at risk. This morning, Tourism Minister Manuel Heredia Junior confirmed that a regional meeting will take place later in the month in Cancun where a regional plan will be created to address the problem.

Manuel Heredia Jr., Minister of Tourism

“Our understanding is that the prediction this year will be worse than last year. We will be meeting in Cancun, all the ministers from the entire Caribbean and Mexico on the twenty eight to come up what is happening on each others’ grounds and to see what will be an overall solution to this. Just like the making sargassum block, and gas but that is some infant stages but we have to come up with other formulas. It is something that it is not caused by human being but probably human error that caused it to happen. But it is there and we have to make sure that we do the best out of it. It is helping a lot like in San Pedro where low areas are being field but that is not the solution. B.T.B. and government have partnered and we have been helping the industry with that two person which translates to twenty percent actually, dollar wise to be able to help our industry. Hopefully we will have to do that again. It also puts a heavy strain both at B.T.B. and government because those are monies that you earmarked for others, probable marketing and so, but you have to use to alleviating the problem but the problem is there. If we don’t take care of it then the industry will suffer.”

Channel 5

Ambergris Caye and the region once again threatened by Sargassum bloom

On Ambergris Caye, one of the areas frequented by tourist is the Boca del Rio strip and has become inundated with Sargassum making it unattractive and affecting all business establishments located on this stretch of beach. The mounds of decaying seaweed are causing a dent in the economy for the restaurants and bars along the beach. The stench of the Sargassum has led many visitors away from the eastern beaches of the island, where the problem grows every day with fresh seaweed arriving every night. According to a researcher at the University of Florida ISA, the Sargassum seaweed bloom will top the amount recorded in 2018. It is believed that this will take place, depending on environmental conditions and nutrient availability. The university researcher warned that the most immediate impact would be in the Caribbean region.

The Sanitation Department of The San Pedro Town Council has been struggling with the situation and were happy to notice a decrease before the Easter Holidays in April of this year. The current situation has them preparing on how to tackle the wave of seaweed. They stated that the Sargassum invasion is becoming a very complicated situation, and they can only hope that the influx will slow down. Meanwhile, a couple of resorts on the island continue to use floating barriers in front of their beach areas. The results have not been as favorable as hoped, as the increase in the arrival of Sargassum has overcome the barriers and is reaching their beach areas.

Click here to read the rest of the article and see more photos in the San Pedro Sun

The collection and proper disposal of sargassum in coastal communities in the Central American and Caribbean regions is a challenge to local governments. On Ambergris Caye, it is no exception. Local government officials are working from several fronts to address the natural phenomenon that is causing serious concerns. Here are the details.

Expert says the sargassum situation in the Caribbean Sea is very serious
Dr. Brigitta Ine van Tussenbroek, researcher at the Puerto Morelos Arrecifal Systems Academic Unit of the Institute of Marine Sciences and Limnology of the UNAM, said that the sargassum situation in the Caribbean Sea is very serious, as the spot now extends along the eastern and northern coasts of the Yucatan Peninsula. The expert, a doctor in biology and ecology of seagrass and macroalgae by the University of Liverpool, forecasted the massive arrival of sargassum to the Mexican Caribbean six months ago, based on studies from the University of Florida. “We have no idea of ​​the capacity of resilience of the environment before this event, the amount of this type of organic matter is growing exponentially; the biogeochemistry of the systems is changing completely, “ said Dr. Brigitta.