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A new sargassum collection system set for testing at Puerto Morelos

Puerto Morelos, Q.R. — The first tests of a novel system are set to begin in Puerto Morelos, which if successful, would increase the effectiveness of sargassum collection at sea. Federal Deputy Luis Alegre Salazar reported that after a meeting last week with Rear Admiral Alejandro López Centeno, coordinator of the National Strategy for Sargasso Care, a new collection system will be tested.

He explained that sea barriers will be attached to the navy’s sargassum ship to create a “funnel” to capture large amounts of seaweed. The system would see the addition of two sea barriers connected to one another than attached to the Sargasso ship of the Secretariat of the Navy.

“The navy has a 50-meter-long vessel, the Natans, which was requisitioned by SAT and donated to the Navy to be conditioned for the collection of sargassum. This boat has special bands in its stern for the collection of seaweed,” he said.

To improve effectiveness, the proposal is to add an anti-sargasssum barrier to each side, similar to those placed on the coasts of Quintana Roo, which would be guided by a smaller vessel at each end and thus, creating a “funnel” that would carry the sargassum in a kilometer-and-a-half-wide area to these collecting bands.

Officials continue to search for ways to make sargassum collection at sea more efficient

Alegre Salazar says they also intend to use a balloon outfitted with a camera that would be place 60-meters above the ship and allow for the location of sargassum patches. In turn, the ship can locate far away patches and be more efficient in its positioning.

He noted that a more complicated issue is what to do with the sargassum, because bringing it to land to be transported manually to a reservoir with a geomembrane has a higher cost than it would imply to exploit it at sea.

He says an idea is to lighten it of the water it contains and then put this dehydrated sargassum in biodegradable bags and throw it to the bottom of the sea.

“Sargassum is born, grows and dies in the sea. That is its natural cycle. On its way to Quintana Roo, it leaves behind a lot of dead sargassum. We are not altering this cycle,” he explained.

As the sargassum repopulates every 18 days, tackling it offshore means intercepting it before it multiplies. This would eventually imply reaching international waters to tackle the arriving seaweed when it is manageable, which will require coordination with the Ministry of Foreign Relations.

There have already been meetings with ambassadors from countries such as the United States, Brazil, France and England in an attempt to achieve joint solutions since the excessive sargassum is a problem for many countries.

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