Since this past summer, there has been a marked increase in seaweed washing up on beaches in Cancun and Riviera Maya along Mexico's Caribbean coastline. Does this mean you need to cancel your plans to visit the popular sun and sand destination? Absolutely not.
Cancun city workers—with resort staff brought in specifically to deal with the issue—have, over the past few months, removed thousands of cubic meters of seaweed to ensure vacationers get the pristine beach experience they hoped for.
At this time, Mexican officials are still studying the brown-coloured kelp (called Sargassum). The cause of the surge in seaweed is unknown, but Quintana Roo Govenor Roberto Borge speculated that it could be due to a combination of higher-than-normal nutrient levels in the water, changes in ocean temperatures, and atypical currents or wind patterns.
So how are municipal workers and resort managers handling the challenge? From two angles.
First, resort-hotel staff at a beach in Tulum are using nets submerged about ten metres into the ocean to snare seaweed before it reaches the shore. So far these nets are preventing about 80% of Sargassum from reaching the beach.
Second, a group of technology students—working together with resort workers—are collecting the kelp, composting it, and delivering it to farms throughout the region as soil fertilizer. A similar program in France inspired the students to try this environmentally-friendly solution.
Cancun and Riviera Maya are home to some of the most stunning beaches in the world. Though the growth in seaweed buildup has been a cause for some concern, hard work and ingenuity has kept the problem at bay.
And it hasn't affected tourist numbers either. The Cancun Convention & Visitors Bureau has reported a 2.5% increase in visitors for the first half of the year over last year.