Update on Sargassum Seaweed Affecting Mexico’s Beaches


History of Sargassum

Read through our past updates to learn more about the history of sargassum in Mexico.

Previous news updates

From 2023:
The 2023 sargassum season started earlier than anticipated, beginning in February. Historically, the seaweed typically starts at the beginning of spring due to a rise in sea temperature, which accelerates the reproduction of the seaweed. As the days get warmer, the presence of sargassum is expected to increase. Experts forecast less sargassum this Summer for Mexico’s top beaches. Officials in cities along the Mexican Caribbean revealed that distance, speed of travel and currents have resulted in experts forecasting a non-existent flow of sargassum seaweed this summer. Read more.

New Hotel Council of the Mexican Caribbean created to facilitate tourists and put order into vacation rentals. Read more.

The Navy successfully installed over 9,050 meters (around 29,691 feet) of anti-sargassum barriers along the coast of Quintana Roo including 1,850mts in the Chetumal/Mahahual area, 2,400mts in Puerto Morelos, 2,500mts around Playa del Carmen and Puerto Aventuras, and 2,300mts in Tulum. There are also 328 people,  16 small boats, and 11 sargassum vessels dedicated to helping the situation. Read more.

From December 5, 2019: Italy has offered to help Quintana Roo find a solution to Mexico’s sargassum influx, according to The Yucatan Times. The Italian government pledged their support in a bid to protect the Italians who work, live, and vacation on Mexico’s Caribbean Coast. The European country’s declaration came during a seminar in Cancun in which researchers and scientists came together to discuss potential solutions to the seaweed issue.

From October 2019: An innovative chef has come up with a novel way to reduce the amount of sargassum in the Caribbean Sea… by cooking with it. Chef Thomas Tennant has started adding experimenting with the ingredient in his dishes, according to the Cayman Compass. Watch Chef Tennant run through his sargassum-based recipes below:
From September 24 2019: Four sargassum guzzling boats are expected to arrive in the Riviera Maya, according to Riviera Maya News. The Mexican Navy vessels are currently being tested in Veracruz but should be launched in Cancun.
From August 28 2019: Sargassum season 2019 is over according to the Quintana Roo Tourism Promotion Council, reports Mexico News Daily. The tourism board reportedly told local and international business enterprises that “multiple reports” suggest there is unlikely to be more seaweed hitting the Mexican-Caribbean shores this year. It added that more than 80% of Caribbean beaches are free or “only affected by small amounts of the macroalgae”. From August 12: Favorable winds and sea currents will dramatically reduce the amount of sargassum in Quintana Roo in August, according to an expert hydrobiologist. Speaking to The Yucatan Times, Esteban Amara Mauricio said low altitude winds and a jet steam will limit the impact of sargassum in the region. Additionally, the article added that recent high tides have led to sargassum being removed from the beach to the north of the Yucatan Peninsula. From August 6: A community clean-up has lead to sargassum-free beaches in Quintana Roo, say Travel Pulse. Volunteer cleaners from the Mahahual business community offered up their time to remove the seaweed from the beach and send it to a disposal unit.

From June 20 2019: A floating barrier has been installed to prevent sargassum reaching the shores of Playa del Carmen in Quintana Roo. Local authorities put up the 2.5km-long fence as part of their on-going efforts to prevent the seaweed from hitting the land, according to Mexico News Daily.

From June 12 2019: The Mexican government will install floating sea fences in a bid to stop sargassum reaching the shore, according to Riviera Maya News. Officials have announced 2.5 km of barriers will be installed this year in the seas off Playa del Carmen to protect its beaches and those at Cancun. From June 5: Mexico’s federal government will build four sargassum-collecting vessels to help protect the Caribbean coast from the seaweed. The catamaran-style boats will cost around 15million pesos ($783,500) and should be ready before the end of the year. They will use a crane system to lift the sargassum from the water and deposit it into another boat, according to Mexico News Daily.

From May 7, 2019: The Mexican Navy will head the fight against sargassum this year, announced Mexican president Andrés Manual Lopez Obrador. He revealed the force’s low-flying planes would be an effective way to spot the seaweed before it hits the shores of the Caribbean coast, according to Mexico News Daily.

From April 1, 2019: Mexican designers have come up with a unique way to recycle sargassum — by transforming it into shoes. Eco-company Renovare designed stylish, water-resistant shoes (above) that can last up to two years, and then be returned to them to be recycled. Yet to hit the market, the company are now looking to hire 150 people to create 20,000 shoecres a month, say Mexico News Daily. From March 12, 2019: The National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) and the Secretariat of Environment and Natural Resources (Semarnat) have joined forces to tackle sargassum in Mexico. This will include plans to create a medium- and long-term strategies to stop the seaweed reaching the beaches, according to The Yucatan Times.

From December 4, 2015: Journey Mexico has a large team based right in Cancun, allowing us to have close contact with the hotels and first-hand knowledge of local happenings. Here is a detailed update from management about how they currently view the issue: We are constantly in touch with our closest hotel partners to monitor the situation and have real-time updates about any issues, sargassum and otherwise. In regards specifically to the seaweed, we have been rating the hotels’ beaches weekly on a scale from 1-10 (1 being very little, 10 a lot) and on average viewing them at a 3. Now, this, of course, can change slightly day-to-day or hotel to hotel, but the main hotels we work with (Rosewood, Le Revé, Banyan Tree Mayakoba, Belmond Maroma, Coral, Ana y Jose, Jashita, Be Tulum & Esencia) make a terrific effort to keep their beaches clean on a daily basis. Since the problem started, we have not had any complaints from our travelers and re-iterate that the hotels continue with an intensive cleaning program. One thing worth emphasizing is that the situation, while we believe has been considerably improved over the months, can vary. Just recently we had some unexpected rain which did increase the presence of sargassum on the beach. However, moving into winter, we are leaving the summer’s rainy season and therefore anticipate the problem to continue to dissipate. If travelers continue to have any concerns about their upcoming vacation at a certain hotel outside of the ones we work with/report on, we suggest reaching out to them via social media or e-mail to inquire if they have a beach cleaning program in place and real-time photos they can share.

From October 23, 2015: In communication with partner hotels in Tulum, they share that the problem has been less frequent and that the currents and weather changes have helped clear the beach. They are optimistic as holiday, high season is just around the corner but continue to monitor the situation and rake the beach whenever necessary.

From October 15, 2015: H. Barber & Sons and CDO Innov, two equipment companies leading in beach-cleaning and manufacturing for environmental use respectively have been called to Mexico to help control the sargassum issue.  H. Barber & Sons are responsible for introducing 50 SurfRakes that are now in operation along the Mexican-Caribbean Coast. The SurfRakes enable the pick up 95% of the sargassum and leave wet sand behind so the beaches do not erode. Some large resorts have invested in a SurfRake for exclusive hotel use while others have been bought by contractors hired to clean up the beaches. Among the resorts in Cancun and the Riviera Maya that have the SurfRake in their seaweed-cleanup regimen are said to include: Banyan Tree Mayakoba, Fairmont Mayakoba, Rosewood Mayakoba, Moon Palace Golf & Spa Resort, Mayan Palace Riviera Maya, Grand Palladium Riviera Resort & Spa, and Grand Riviera Princess. Read more: the Caribbean, Mexico Fighting Sargassum with Heavy-Duty Machines

From October 1, 2015: Journey Mexico’s Cancun office reports that the situation in Cancun has been improving a lot. They confirm things are getting better and hopefully everything will be back to normal soon. As our staff conducts hotel inspections regularly, it is most accurate to report the situation in Riviera Maya, and Tulum does fluctuate greatly from day to day and from hotel to hotel. The water in some areas along the Riviera Maya continues to be cloudy but its now standard to see the hotels and staff work around the clock to try and pick up the sargassum throughout the day.

From August 20, 2015: A group of technology students from a local university is searching for ways to positively use the masses of unwanted sargasso. They are studying to see if it can be composted and used as fertilizer on farms in local villages. Mexico’s Ministry of Environment has designated certain areas for research and have provided workshops about the treatment of sargasso and its benefits for production purposes. Read more: Local Technology Students Turn Sargasso into Fertilizer

From August 18, 2015: The innovative concept to prevent seaweed from reaching beaches using nets has produced positive results. By using the nets, up to 80 percent of the sargassum is caught before reaching hotel beaches. Not all beaches have implemented this system as there is concern about disturbing nesting turtles and other sea life. While not entirely effective, it has helped to keep some beaches clear of seaweed for tourists. Read more: Sea Nets Catching Sargasso, Clearing the Way for Tourists.

From August 8, 2015: Government officials plan to place mesh nets over a two kilometer stretch of Tulum beach. Once caught in the mesh, the Sargasso seaweed is then picked up by boats and returned in the sea current that is directed toward the Yucatan Channel. Read more: Mexican Authorities Finding Permanent Solution to Sargasso Problem. From August 5, 2015: Mexican authorities say they will spend about $9.1 million and hire 4,600 temporary workers to clean up mounds of seaweed that have accumulated along the coast. The seaweed removal will cover Holbox in the north through Cancun, Isla Mujeres, Playa del Carmen, Cozumel, Akumal, Tulum and as far south as Mahahual. Read more: Mexico to Spend $9.1 Million on Seaweed Cleanup.

Historic sargassum updates from Mexican hotels

We contacted the hotels across the Caribbean coast in Mexico for updates on the sargassum situation. Below are our previous updates from our hotels.

Esencia / April 12, 2019: The truth is we don’t have any seaweed today! There is just a little remaining from a few days earlier when there were some strong winds (usually winds from the north are the ones causing the seaweed issues). As of today, everything is a lot better. As always our team get out on the beach first thing in the morning and make everything look amazing.

Casa Malca / April 8, 2019: Casa Malca is pretty lucky at this point. The level of seaweed we have is very low. Of course, it depends on the weather condition of the day. In case of appearance of the sargassum at the beach area, our staff clean the sand and recollect the sargassum manually early morning, so our guests can enjoy the beach. Usually, all the sargassum reach the sand area and do not float in the sea, it give us a privilege to have our beach and water clean and clear.

Sargassum in Playa del Carmen: The latest

Mayakoba / April 11, 2019: On a day-to-day basis, our expansive white-sand beach remains clean and beautiful. On-shore trade winds and choppy weather conditions can result in a small bit of sargassum seaweed on our resort’s shoreline. While the seaweed can reach the shores of our resort at various intervals, we have a team of dedicated staff continuously removing it as it accumulates and cleaning the beach every morning to ensure that our oceanfront remains pristine. Our guests continue to enjoy our beach facilities, amenities, and sparkling ocean views.

Chable Maroma / April 8, 2019: Currently we have very little sargassum, it is a natural phenomenon, but atypical, for this reason there are no precise monitoring or forecasts. Sargasso naturally helps in the conservation of beaches, so for ecological reasons on the island it is not allowed to be removed completely, not even to clean and collect it in bags so, at the hotel, we choose to move it from the guest area to a space where it does not look bad and impede the enjoyment of our beaches or violates the environmental care laws of the island.

Sargassum in Holbox: The latest

Las Nubes de Holbox April 9, 2019: The beaches of Holbox are not normally affected by sargassum since they are located very north of the Yucatan Peninsula. The sargassum islands are swept by the Gulf Stream into Miami before they reach our shores of Holbox, only on occasions where the currents change [because of a] storm is when small amounts of sargasso usually arrives at the island.

Casa Sandra April 10, 2019: Currently, we have very little sargassum, it is a natural phenomenon, but atypical, for this reason, there are no precise monitoring or forecasts. Sargasso naturally helps in the conservation of beaches, so for ecological reasons on the island it is not allowed to be removed completely, not even to clean and collect it in bags so, at the hotel, we choose to move it from the guest area to a space where it does not look bad and impede the enjoyment of our beaches or violates the environmental care laws of the island.

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