Alex Zozaya: There is no strategy to deal with sargassum
Alejandro Zozaya, CEO of Apple Leisure Group, stated that the federal government does not have a strategy to stop the arrival of sargassum on the beaches of Quintana Roo and has left the job to hoteliers, although the Navy has been deployed to do exactly that.
“The supposed strategy of the Secretary of the Navy in the state is non-existent,” said Alejandro Zozaya, CEO of Apple Leisure Group, which has several properties in Quintana Roo.
“What strategy? The sargassum is already arriving, it is already here and we do not see a strategy, “he said.
Zozaya said the only effective way to prevent sargassum from accumulating on beaches is to collect it while it is still at sea.
“But we do not see any action from the federal government in that regard,” he said, although Navy vessels have been deployed to remove masses of sargassum from the sea and install barriers to prevent it from reaching the coast.
Zozaya said hotels have been left to remove unsightly algae from Quintana Roo beaches.
This sargassum season, which normally runs from March to September, is expected to be similar to that of 2018, when massive amounts of grass washed ashore.
The problem could be exacerbated if the sargassum containment barriers do not work as they should. Members of the Quintana Roo government’s sargassum committee said earlier this week that barriers installed by hotels and the marina are not preventing large amounts of grass from reaching the beaches.
“The Navy installed barriers … [but] the sargassum continues to reach the beach,” said a committee member who spoke to the daily Reforma on condition of anonymity. “… I feel that the necessary care was not taken [in the installation of the barriers].”
The committee member also said the federal government is not using its sargassum containment tools effectively.
“For the work to be effective… it is necessary that the sargassum collection containers and the barriers work together,” he said.
In contrast to Zozaya’s claim, another committee member said the Navy is collecting sargassum in the sea off the coasts of Mahahual, Xcalak, Tulum, Playa del Carmen, Puerto Morelos and Cancun.
In a press conference on Tuesday, the head of the Navy reported that the Marines are working in Quintana Roo to combat the arrival of sargassum. Admiral José Rafael Ojeda said 289 marines and numerous vessels, including 12 that collect sargassum, have been deployed to protect beaches from Isla Mujeres in the north to Othón P. Blanco in the south.
Despite the Navy’s best efforts, sargassum continues to accumulate on beaches, where it quickly begins to emit foul odors as it rots in the sun.
According to the Cancun sargassum monitoring network, which released an updated map on Wednesday, there are currently excessive amounts of sargassum on five beaches: three on the mainland and two in the far northeast of Cozumel, an island off the coast of Playa del Carmen. There are 21 beaches with abundant amounts of sargassum, 23 with moderate amounts, 16 with very low amounts and 15 that are free of algae, which in addition to being smelly and unattractive can cause environmental problems.
The presence of sargassum has not stopped tourists from using them, according to a report published Wednesday by the news website Reporte Indigo. He said visitors are taking advantage of “little islands of sand” on the beaches to sunbathe, do yoga or just sit back and enjoy a drink.
In Playa del Carmen, where there are currently moderate amounts of seaweed on the beaches, a municipal worker told Reporte Indigo that strong waves had broken sargassum barriers and rendered them ineffective. To date, however, less sargassum has arrived than last year, he said.
The worker said that he manages a municipal government team of almost 40 men who are working on cleaning beaches in the municipality of Solidaridad but lack the machinery to serve them.
Manually shoveling sargassum is arduous and often frustrating work, but to keep Quintana Roo’s famous white sand beaches and turquoise blue water as clean as possible and therefore not deter tourism, the work must continue.
The enormity of the task is hard to overstate: the navy alone has collected nearly 105,000 tons of sargassum from beaches since 2019, as well as thousands of tons at sea, while moving brigades employed by hotels, municipal workers and others have cleared countless more tons of pesky weed.
Source: El Economista, Reforma, Indigo Report