MEXICO CITY – Mexico will attempt to divert brown sargassum seaweed at sea to prevent it from washing up on the beaches of Cancun and other resort areas on its Caribbean coast, Environment Secretary Rafael Pacchiano said.
“We intend on carrying out a pilot study to see if the sargassum can be diverted at sea so that it is picked up by other currents,” he told a press conference in Mexico City.
Pacchiano said that it is very difficult to control the emergence of sargassum and that the ideal alternative is to contain it before it arrives on Mexican beaches, where the heat and sun cause it to decompose.
The official said it is still to be seen if the current is strong enough to divert the seaweed “because the wind is also an important factor that determines where it goes.”
“We are studying different options, and unfortunately nothing is certain,” he added.
Pacchiano recalled that in 2015 an “atypical” amount of seaweed washed up on Mexican beaches and that the situation is happening once again in 2018.
According to Pacchiano, a brown patch of seaweed is forming at sea that is larger than the one observed in 2015.
“This is a situation that not only affects Mexico. Practically the whole Caribbean has been affected,” he said.
The official said that the Mexican government has looked for different technologies to help remove the sargassum, although there are few options.
“The truth is that the right technology does not exist. There are few boats designed to remove it at sea, they are expensive, and the amount of seaweed they can remove is limited,” Pacchiano said, while noting that Quintana Roo state, which includes Cancun, Cozumel and Playa del Carmen, has 300 km (nearly 200 mi) of shoreline.
Two researchers with the National Autonomous University of Mexico’s Marine Sciences Institute in Puerto Morelos, Quintana Roo, fear that the massive arrival of sargassum could lead to an ecological disaster.
One of the researchers, Brigitta van Tussenbroek, said that the solution is to stop the sargassum in its place of origin: the Sargasso Sea, near Bermuda.