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Mexico’s Caribbean beaches face another seaweed invasion

View of the massive invasion of sargassum seaweed on the beach at Cancun last September 2018, of a kind that experts predict will occur again in 2019 on the coast of the Mexican Caribbean. EFE-EPA/Alonso Cupul/File

View of the massive invasion of sargassum seaweed on the beach at Cancun last September 2018, of a kind that experts predict will occur again in 2019 on the coast of the Mexican Caribbean. EFE-EPA/Alonso Cupul/File

EFE

The massive invasion of sargassum seaweed on the beaches of the Mexican Caribbean is set to happen again in 2019, one of the country’s leading experts on the issue said Monday.

Should the situation be similar to the one in 2019, damage to the ecosystem and the tourism industry will be severe, Brigitta Ine van Tussenbroek, a scientist at the National Autonomous University of México (UNAM), said, citing data from colleagues at the University of Florida.

She said the monthly reports from UF researchers are based on seaweed masses floating on the open sea, which indicate a probability they will reach Mexican beaches, but without specifying where

The main places affected are Cancun, Chetumal and Tulum.

Sargassum makes its way to the Mexican Caribbean from two main sources: the Sargasso Sea, near Bermuda, and an area north of Ecuador off the coast of Brazil.

Though sargassum seaweed has been coming to Mexico year after year, it has never been washed onto the beaches in such large amounts as it was last year

Studies indicate that the causes of the increase could be the rising temperatures in ocean waters and the dumping of organic trash in the rivers of Central American countries, which accelerates the life cycle and reproduction of algae.

In fact, sargassum is now able to double its biomass in 11 days, whereas it used to take 50 days.

Nonetheless, Van Tussenbroek said the chances of huge amounts of the seaweed being washed ashore on the Mexican coast will depend on “local atmospheric conditions, such as trade winds, which move the sargassum to our beaches.”

“We don’t know how resilient ecosystems are in such situations, but they seem vulnerable. We’re probably far from any kind of recovery, and the outlook is anything but encouraging.


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