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Sargassum strategies part of United Nations Conference on Climate Change visit

Riviera Maya, Q.R. — Solidaridad and UK authorities toured a central area of Playa del Carmen for a first-hand look at the sargassum situation. The afternoon tour was part of a state wide visit by Alok Sharma, president of the United Nations Conference on Climate Change (COP26).

Sharma was in the state visiting other areas including Muyil in the municipality of Felipe Carrillo Puerto where he participated in meetings regarding the sustainable use of timber and non-timber resources.

While in Playa del Carmen, Sharma and his team were accompanied by members of the Navy and Zofemat who toured several of the city’s sargassum covered beaches. The group of officials spent their time discussing managment techniques for the seaweed.

Lourdes Varguez Ocampo, the Director of Zofemat Solidaridad, said they were exchanging experiences to “establish a twinning with international groups that allow addressing the phenomenon at a global level addressing the root of the problem. They have been visiting different points of the state to get a general overview and from there, see how alliance strategies can be created between the affected countries.”

During their visit, Varguez explained how the city collects sargassum on its shores, the type of machinery used to prevent sand erosion and its final disposal on land to avoid soil contamination.

Alejandro López, Navy Rear Admiral and head of the National Strategy for Sargassum Management told them about the barriers installed off the coast and about the sargassum collection vessels they built to collect the seaweed at sea.

The visit was part of a UK environmental project to study the ongoing sargassum issue. From this, the state has expressed its willingness to work together to use satellites to track and analyze sargassum in the Caribbean Sea.

The issue of sargassum has been ongoing since it was first discovered by Nasa in 2011, when the Great Atlantic Sargassum Belt, the world’s largest bloom of seaweed, was first detected.

It stretched from the Gulf of Mexico to the western coast of Africa and continues to affect coastal areas, including those along the UK. The mass blooms of floating seaweed are known to smother fragile seagrass areas, suffocate coral reefs and harm fisheries.

They are also having an affect on tourism. Authorities have said that the sargassum blooms are exacerbated by fertilizers washing into the ocean as well as by warming sea temperatures.