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Researchers: banned pesticides likely cause of local sargasso problem

Cancun, Q.R. – Researchers from the University of Campeche have teamed up with Greenpeace to determine the cause of the masses of Sargasso that plagued local beaches this past summer.

Greenpeace ship, Hope, docked in Cozumel this week to help investigate the cause of the large amounts of kelp that has been accumulating along the Yucatan Peninsula.

After analyzing water samples, researchers feel that the presence of banned pesticides and fertilizers may be having an impact.

Sandra Laso, who is with Greenpeace, explained that excessive use of fertilizer in industrial agriculture could be one of the causes.

Laso says, “It is the task of concerned and responsible authorities to investigate this incident, however, in Mexico this is not the case. The government in its various local, state and federal levels has been more concerned with removing the kelp and stopping it than trying to understand the phenomenon.”

She added that the relevance of their study here is important because there is information about the use of pesticides and other substances and the impact industrial agriculture has on the local environment.

“There are different scenarios such as the Sargasso Sea, but the presence of this seaweed, its formation, it could be due to the contribution of nutrients from industrial agriculture, for example, organic matter and overuse of fertilizer in agriculture,” she noted.

Many farms in Mexico still use banned pesticides that have been out of use for many years. The banned pesticides in question were found to have a profound impact on the environment. Once these pesticides are applied to crops, they eventually drain into the soil and make their way to coastal waters.

Jaime Rendón von Osten, researcher of Ecology, Fisheries and Oceanografías at the Institute of Mexico (EPOMEX), explained that this was the reason researchers proposed taking water samples along the coastline of Quintana Roo. He says they need to find the drainage points and check for the use of agrochemicals.

“The chemicals do not remain at the site of application,” he says. “These compounds can integrate the hydrological cycle and pollute far afield including the coastal zone and oceans. If we identify the presence of these compounds, even in low concentrations, we will have to establish the potential risks and their impact on human health.”

He added that sampling was done between Cozumel and Tulum on Monday and Tuesday and will be extended to include the coast of the Yucatan and Campeche.

“This is to establish the impact on coastal ecosystems of the Yucatan Peninsula, agrochemicals, including glyphosate, because there is no monitoring in the area,” said Rendón von Osten.

After they have completed their samples, Mauricio Gonzalez Jauregui, scientist at EPOMEX , will evaluate the water and determine the impact of the pesticides.

The scientists said that although the sea kelp itself does not pose any risk to humans, it does generate damage to the ecosystem, which is why it’s imperative to find out what’s causing it and how to manage it.

Water samples of the Baja Peninsula are also being tested.

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