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Committee in place to deal with Sargasso problem

Cancun, Q.R. – For the first time in the state, environmental authorities are working with the hotel industry to form committees to develop strategies at dealing with the local Sargasso problem.

The kelp, which continues to arrive along the shores of the Yucatán Peninsula and Quintana Roo, are not considered a garbage or pollutant, but instead, are considered a huge hindrance. The problem is mostly aesthetic in that the seaweed is seen as unpleasant and unsightly by the millions of tourists who arrive for pristine beaches and views of endless white sand.

Carlos Gosselin Maurel, President of the Cancun Hotel Association, explains, “We’ve concluded it is more important to remove the kelp at sea rather than on the shore. The working time is more efficient while at the same time, giving the beaches a better appearance.”

For cleaning marine territory, they must coordinate the work with the Directorate of Federal Maritime Zone (Zofemat), Ministry of the Navy and Navy Mexico and the Secretariat of Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fisheries and Food (SAGARPA).

The committee is composed of officials from the Environment of the State and associations of hotels in Benito Juarez, Tulum, Bacalar, Cozumel and Solidarity, who consider it important not to disseminate the problem nationwide because improper information could reduce the number of tourists arriving in the Mexican Caribbean.

Related: Sargasso affecting beaches from the US to Mexico

At a meeting held on Thursday, the committee agreed to form five subcommittees to evaluate different areas in cleaning the Sargasso. These subcommittees will include technical, economic, scientific collection and disposal.

According to Rafael Muñoz Berzunza, head of the Ministry of Ecology and Environment (SEMA), the subcommittees have 10 days to provide relevant information on each of their respected areas, after which there will be bimonthly meetings.

Each of the nine coastal municipalities in the state have different levels of problems with the sea kelp, therefore, one uniform solution will not work.

“While the overall features along the coast are similar, each has its own specific ecosystem and legal peculiarities so that each of the groups require different strategies,” said Muñoz Berzunza.

Two hotels along the Riviera Maya have been able to use the kelp as a sustainable material. Grand Velas and Moon Palace have been given specific areas where they are allowed to collect and crush the seaweed into large coastal dunes to feed marine life. Gosselin Maurel points out that not all hotels can do this since not all hotels have the space to create the massive dunes.

Jaime Gonzalez Cano, director of the Natural Protected Area (ANP) National Park, West Coast of Isla Mujeres, Punta Cancun, Punta Nizuc notes that this year is the year the area has had the biggest problem with the sea kelp. He says that 2010 and 2012 were also troubling years, as the kelp made its way to the area and covered the beaches.

The next meeting will look at additional federal resources as well as determine how and when the kelp will be dealt with. The committee is not ruling out the possibility of a strategy being put into place beginning next year. For now, the committee is creating temporary jobs to clean the sargazo with the program in place from July to August.

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