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State beaches hit hard by mass arrival of sargassum as workers continue to clean

Riviera Maya, Q.R. — Excessively large amounts of sargassum continues to make landfall along Quintana Roo beaches with the Sargasso Monitoring Network reporting the arrival of 2,000 tons in the last three days.

The mass arrival of the seaweed spans along all 475 kilometers of the Quintana Roo coast. The monitoring network says the algae arrived after becoming detached from islands between Cuba and the Yucatan Peninsula. They also report a concentration of more than 12,000 tons, according to satellite models from the United States and the Secretary of the Navy.

Esteban Amaro of the Sargasso Monitoring Network says “twenty percent has already landed on the Quintana Roo coast in the last three days, of the almost 12,500 tons that the Navy said it had detected…15 to 20 percent has already landed.”

He explained that most of the beaches from Tulum to Lázaro Cárdenas are in red with excessive sargassum, but says that still, “most everything is in yellow and two in orange in Punta Cancun, which has been getting very dirty,” noted Esteban Amaro. He says the main beaches of Xcalak and Chetumal have about 30 meters of sargassum from the sand into the sea.

Some Riviera Maya beaches are also struggling to deal with the mass arrival, however, city personnel have been out in the hundreds in places such as Playa del Carmen and Puerto Morelos where they continue the battle.

Workers are out seven days a week manually removing the washed up seaweed. In Puerto Morelos, the town reports five of its eight public beaches are 95 percent free of sargassum due to the manual cleaning.

The director of Puerto Morelos Public Services, Luis Cardeña Peña, says Ventana al Mar (the old lighthouse area) is one of those areas. “In the other three, we have a contingency due to the massive arrival of the macro algae from its arrival on the beach to its decomposition in the water, which we are already addressing.”

“Of the 300 meters of beach where the problem is registered, located between the Pelícanos Marina and the Fiscal dock, we already have 100 linear meters cleaned and we estimate that in a week, we will have recovered 100 percent,” he said.

In Playa del Carmen, the government says they are also collecting tons of sargassum that has been landing along the beaches through the 120 seaweed workers and machine operators. The director of the Zofemat Solidaridad, Marco Loeza Pacheco, says that to date, workers have removed 11,629 tons of sargassum.

On Cozumel, business owners on the eastern side of the island are offering incentives to anyone who wishes to collect bags of sargassum. Restaurant owner Francisco Reyes says that free food or drinks are being offered in exchange for bags of seaweed.

He says from June 21 to August 31, residents and tourists who wish to collect seaweed can do so for an exchange of free food or drinks (including beer). He says the dynamics are simple, two bags of sargassum collected are equivalent to one bottle of water. Three bags will get you a soda and four bags, a beer.

Go-getters can bring in 10 bags of seaweed in exchange for fish ceviche or an order of fries, 12 bags for beef nachos, chicken or a beef burger or 15 bags for beef or chicken nachos, fish ceviche or hamburger with 2 soft drinks.

For the overly enthusiastic, 20 bags of sargassum will get you a mixed ceviche, french fries and a six pack of beer. Those interested can sign up with Reyes (Francisco Reyes via WhatsApp at 987 114 3306).