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International Sargasso summit held in Cancun

Cancun, Q.R. — An international summit on the topic of sargasso was held in Cancun with representative from 12 countries who are also facing the problem of seaweed covered beaches.

The High Level Summit for Sargasso Care in the Caribbean began Thursday with representatives from other countries who have continued to deal with the arrival of sargasso along their coasts.

“The objective is to analyze the sargasso situation that has affected these countries over the last seasons and exchange experiences, to understand the origin of the sargasso, its route, the situation in each Caribbean country and possible solutions to avoid economic and environmental problems,” explained state governor Carlos Joaquín González.

“The economy of these countries depends on tourism, the Caribbean states live on tourism and this situation generates a complicated economic and environmental situation, hence the exchange of experiences,” he added.

To date, the state of Quintana Roo has implemented manual beach cleaning, the use of light machinery and the placement of marine barriers in front of beaches in various municipalities, which has resulted in the removal of more than 522,000 tons of sargasso from coastal areas of seven municipalities for cost of around 332 million peso, he said.

Benito Juárez municipal president Mara Lezama Espinosa said “Facing this phenomenon requires collective efforts. International cooperation is fundamental because it is a theme that is present in the region that we all share. Combing sargassum is an everyday task.

“The beaches are cleaned in the mornings, sometimes in the afternoons and the workers come back because they have to be cleaned again. We must establish a regional collaboration agenda for technical support and mechanisms that benefit us to deal with the phenomenon,” she said.

June Soomer, secretary general of the Association of Caribbean States said that sargasso affects the east coast of many countries such as Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago and Mexico, as well as Martinique and Guadalupe.

She explained that being a new challenge, it lacks a legal framework for regional collaboration and, in fact, does not even have a diagnosis of the damage it generates in fisheries, the environment and tourism, which she hopes will be resolved during the summit.

Donald R. Jonhson and James S. Franks, scientists from the University of Southern Mississippi, explained that so far they have not been able to determine what is causing the sea of sargasso to form, but explained that their records date back to 2010, and after nearly a decade of research “we have not learned anything,” the scientists said.

“What I’m saying is that it seems something drastic happened in 2010. There is nothing in particular that has caused it. There is nothing we can say. I don’t know the answer as to why now, but I suspect that it arrived in the area (of Brazil) for the nutrients,” Donald R. Johnson explained during his presentation.

Specialists attending the summit included the countries of Honduras, Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Haiti, Cuba, Panama, Guadalupe Island (French territory), Guyana and Guatemala.