Seaweed influx may deter Mexico tourists

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Mexico is constructing sea barriers to stop large amounts of seaweed from hitting its tourist areas.Large amounts of sargassum seaweed have washed up on the shores of Mexico’s tropical resort city of Cancun forcing visits to consider travelling to other tourist destinations instead.
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The seaweed has also covered almost all of Mexico’s popular Riviera Maya over the past few weeks.

“The appeal of this (region) is its turquoise sea and white sand,” Brigitta Ine van Tussenbroek, a researcher at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) Marine Sciences Institute, said on Monday.

But “if tourists see beaches with tons of rotting organic matter and foul smells, they won’t come back,” she said.

The tourism department of the southeastern state of Quintana Roo, home to the Riviera Maya, said the region welcomed some 16.9 million tourists in 2017, an increase of 5.3 per cent compared to 2016, generating $US8.81 billion for the state’s economy.

Tourism officials said that, despite the sargassum infestation, hotel occupancy in Quintana Roo are currently running at around 90 per cent, compared with 82.77 per cent in the summer of 2017.

Mexico’s environment secretary, Rafael Pacchiano, said that in 2015 an “atypical” amount of seaweed washed up on Mexican beaches and that the situation is recurring now.

According to Pacchiano, a brown patch of seaweed is forming at sea that is larger than the one observed in 2015.

“This is a situation that not only affects Mexico. Practically the whole Caribbean has been affected,” he said.

“We intend on carrying out a pilot study to see if the sargassum can be diverted at sea so that it is picked up by other currents,” he told a press conference in Mexico City.

Hotels in Quintana Roo spend around $US53,000 each month to remove the seaweed from its beaches.

Sargassum makes its way to the Mexican Caribbean from two main sources: the Sargasso Sea, near Bermuda, and an area north of Ecuador off the coast of Brazil.

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