How can we dump so much waste in the ocean and expect it to be clean with crystal clear water?

How can we expect blessings from the ocean by continuously abusing it: oil spills, agriculture runs off, plastic pollution?

At some point the ocean will stop being nice and generous with us and will make us pay the bill for all the damage. And in this case even all the money in the world will not cover this bill, because ocean has no bank account, and it is not in the business selling-buying for profit. And that is why it’s clear enough that all the options of fixing damage by capitalism style methods will not work with ocean.

Ocean that provides 70% of the world’s oxygen is now suffocating from the Sargassum seaweed.

sargassum mexico

Sargassum seaweed.

Sargassum seaweed has become a nightmare for most of the countries and islands in the Caribbean area.

Why is it happening?

The causes of this recent extended Sargassum blooms are not 100% yet understood and more research needs to be done.

Among the most popular theories:
1. Global warning and rising sea temperature.
2. Agriculture runoffs from Brazil and US.
3. Oil spill that happened in 2010 in the Gulf of Mexico and all the chemicals that were used to clean the ocean’s surface, by sinking oil to the bottom of the ocean.
4. Deforestation in Brazil.

5. Dumping of organic trash in the rivers of Central American countries and Brazil which accelerates the life cycle and reproduction of algae.

Lew Gramer, a marine scientist at the University of Miami, has also described a possible “correlation” between climate change and Sargassum’s spread due to changes in ocean circulation. “An unusual pattern of winds and ocean-surface circulation over the Sargasso Sea in late 2009 and early 2010 preceded the first mass beaching’s,” he said. “And this pattern actually coincided with an anomaly in a sea-level air pressure index that is also studied by climate scientists, the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO).” Some researchers have linked changes in the NAO to global warming.

Free floating marine plants, such as Sargassum needs the energy of the sun, Carbone dioxide and nutrients for their growth.

sargassum seaweed beaches mexico
Seaweed in Playa del Carmen May 2019
sargassum seaweed nightmare
Sargassum seaweed on the beach of Ocean Riviera Paradise resort July 2019

Where Sargassum comes from?

Sargassum seaweed was first spotted by Christopher Columbus in the 15 century in Sargassum sea, which is within Atlantic Ocean and spreads for approximately 2 mln. square miles. It is a home for hundreds of marine species: crabs, fishes, shrimps and even turtles. Its existence is vital to the biodiversity and productivity of marine life.

Two species of the Sargassum seaweed are most abundant in Caribbean Sea: S.fluitans and S.natans.

Since 2011 a new tank of Sargassum has been registered by scientist at the North Equatorial Region of the Atlantic Ocean northeast of Brazil.

sargassum in caribbean

what is sargassum seaweed

Is it possible to predict Sargassum  seaweed invasion?

There some resources in the Internet that on regular basis publish updates of Sargassum seaweed movements. They get these information using satellites. Considering the fact that Sargassum can double it’s biomass in 20 days it possible to predict its growth.

What are the Sargassum seaweed side effects?

At this point in July 2019 it’s certain that the side effects of Sargassum invasion are devastating and tremendous. It created environmental, ecological and economic disorder. And the seaweed is not to be blamed. It’s just the reaction of the ocean to the human activity…

The presence of Sargassum seaweed on the beaches negatively affects turtle nesting and results in problem of their reproduction.

There have been published many reports along with photos showing turtle, fishes, dolphins that died suffocating because of being trapped in seaweed and the lack of oxygen.

Decomposing sargassum releases sulfuric gases which can cause allergies, respiratory problems and skin reactions.

sargassum seaweed invasion
Sargassum in Tulum in June 2018
sargassum seaweed in tulum
Sargassum Seaweed in Tulum May 2019

What can be done to stop Sargassum seaweed nightmare?

Every all-inclusive hotel has a team dedicated to cleaning their beaches of Sargassum. Every morning they start cleaning the beaches and don’t stop until evening. Although it’s important for touristic areas like Riviera Maya, Cancun, Domincian Republic and many others to keep their beaches clean, this type of efforts can’t make an impact and solve this seaweed invasion problem.

Dr. Brigitta Ine van Tussenbroek, researcher at the Puerto Morelos Arrecifal Systems Academic Unit of the Institute of Marine Sciences and Limnology of the UNAM, said:

“We have no idea of ​​the capacity of resilience of the environment before this event, the amount of this type of organic matter is growing exponentially; the biogeochemistry of the systems is changing completely. If this crisis continues and is not managed properly, it will permanently change the ecosystem; this is a very serious problem. This crisis is an indicator of growing contamination and the damage caused directly by human activities, 100 times worse than before, in the seas and coasts of the Caribbean. Sargassum has a high concentration of phosphorus and arsenic and it’s very important to tear down the myth that it turns into sand. Due to the quantities of Sargassum that have reached our coasts a thousand time more phosphorus is generated, causing more algae to grow that corals”.

Until now the only visible efforts that were implied  are the installation of barriers close to the coastlines, which in theory should prevent Sargassum seaweed from entering the beaches. These floating barriers are now a common practice in Riviera Maya, Cancun, Dominican Republic and some other Caribbean countries. But these barriers are just a bandage on the wound and a long-term solution is still to be found.

sargassum seaweed caribbean
Sargassum seaweed decay in Playa del Carmen May 2019

On a personal note.

I first saw Sargassum at the beginning of 2015 or it’s more correct to say noticed. Why? I recently went through photos of 2014 and was surprised to find out that back at the beginning of that year some beaches already had Sargassum seaweed. And because it was present in little quantities, I didn’t pay attention to it.
In 2015 we had a first massive Sargassum seaweed invasion on the beaches. All across the Riviera Maya coastline and Cancun the beaches were covered with these smelly dark brown algae.

It was a new phenomenon and nobody knew what happened, why is it here and how long it will be present.

All-inclusive hotels little by little were cleaning up the seaweed mess on their own beaches, but many of workers involved in these daily clean up were saying that it’s a lost battle against the Nature, because the seaweed kept coming nonstop. And it still does.

I feel sorry for the ocean and marine life, because this amount of Sargassum seaweed is another proof of our ocean bad condition and all these happens because of human activity and the mistreatment by overusing its treasures. How bad we should have hurt the ocean, so it started producing so much Sargassum seaweed, putting its own marine habitants in danger of suffocating?

sargassum seaweed
Sargassum Seaweed in Tulum June 2018
sargassum what is it
Sargassum Seaweed in Tulum May 2019

What you need to know about Sargassum while planning your vacation in the Mexican Caribbean area?

Beaches in Isla Mujeres and Cozumel island (east side), Cancun beaches located from the 1 km -9 km of the Hotel Zone are  always clean of Sargassum seaweed, because of their position the sea current doesn’t bring seaweed to their white sandy beaches.

The beaches most effected by Sargassum are in Tulum, Mahahaul, Puerto Morelos and some areas in Playa del Carmen.

In Cancun beaches from 10km-24 km has a moderate amount of seaweed and the situation changes daily.

For more recent updates on Sargassum Seaweed in Mexico visit Facebook group here Sargasso Seaweed Updates Riviera Maya

Sources:

https://ocean.si.edu/conservation/pollution/gulf-oil-spill

https://daily.jstor.org/great-seaweed-invasion/

https://science.sciencemag.org/ The great Atlantic Sargassum Belt published July 4,2019
https://www.biogeosciences-discuss.net/bg-2017-346/

https://newrepublic.com/article/150775/humans-created-new-natural-disaster

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