Cancun, Q.R. – The local Sargasso problem is affecting more than just people. The thick and seemingly endless accumulation of the natural seaweed is also having an effect on nesting sea turtles.
The vast amounts of the kelp are creating barriers which are preventing sea turtles from being able to reach and nest on shore. When the turtles are unable to reach the sandy beaches, they return to sea without laying their eggs.
From January to June of this year, there have been over 2,000 nesting turtles along the beaches of Cancun, a 20 percent increase from January to June 2014. To help keep these numbers climbing, more than 10 hotels in Benito Juarez are taking on the challenge of permanently cleaning the Sargasso themselves.
The participating hotels are committed to the turtle nesting programs and are making an attempt to keep their beaches clean of Sargasso so the turtles came come ashore at night and lay their eggs.
But Roberto Palazuelos, president of the Hotel Association of Tulum, says that the municipalities of Tulum and Cozumel face additional challenges in these areas.
“In a hotel we collect more than 30 tons by hand in one day, which means if it is not collected it creates a barrier that will not let the turtles nest” described Palazuelos.
He says that they have seen instances where the nesting turtles return to the sea because they cannot find a suitable place to nest on land.
Although the sea kelp is clean and is a natural part of the local marine life, the problem is the accumulation of such large amounts along the shores create impassable barriers for females trying to lay eggs. At the same time, the kelp proves to be a challenging barrier for new hatchlings trying to make their way to the sea as many become stuck in the kelp.
According to Silva Felipe Villanueva, director of Ecology in the municipality of Benito Juarez, there are approximately 50 hotels that have built pens on the beaches to help house and protect the turtle eggs on their property.
Last year, hotels were collecting less than 500 kilograms of sargasso per day. This year, they’re averaging a ton per day.