The massive landfall of sargassum on the beaches of Tulum and all of Quintana Roo during this season does not only affect tourism in the state, but also represents a great risk for some marine species, especially turtles.
According to biologist Gisela Maldonado, member of the State Committee for the Protection and Conservation of Sea Turtles, turtle nests are in serious danger with this macroalgae due to the heat generated by its accumulation.
The specialist assures that they currently maintain a monitoring that indicates that the massive arrival of sargassum this year could be similar to what happened during 2018.
However, it will depend on a series of factors and weather conditions, although she does not rule out a concern for the arrival of the macroalgae, derived from the effects it causes such as beach erosion and the conditions of the areas closest to the area where turtles lay their eggs.
Turtle nests at risk from sargassum
“The warming that can cause the rotting of the sargassum on top of the sand continues to be a latent concern, so we have since 2017 a continuous monitoring of the temperature of the sand. We continue to reinforce that all those who are interested in combating sargassum adhere to the guidelines,” he said.
He explained that the use of light to semi-heavy machinery to remove sargassum is also an issue that worries them because of the risks that could have the sea turtle eggs, although up to this moment he considered that the interception at sea is the most appropriate strategy.
In view of this, he insisted on the importance of abiding by the guidelines of the Secretariat of the Environment and Natural Resources (Semarnat), stating that it was the turtle farmers who worked to have these rules.
“We have been able to identify up to 60 degrees of temperature when the sargassum is piled up over a meter and a half high, the heat generated by the rotting can raise up to 60 and 70 degrees and that is enough to cook the nests, we have already had events that nests were not even covered by sargassum, but were less than a meter away from an accumulation”.
6.1 million tons of sargassum in the Atlantic Ocean
The University of South Florida, agrees with the specialist that the abundance of sargassum in 2022 compares to 2018 since in its latest report, indicates that the first two months of the year, the total amount of sargassum in the Atlantic Ocean (6.1 million tons), is the second highest amount recorded for the month of February, so it is predicted that 2023 will continue to be a year with significant accumulations of sargassum.
Currently, Playa del Carmen, with its well known beach “El Recodo” is one of the most affected beaches in the Riviera Maya where the sargassum literally “overflows”.
The municipal government collectors and volunteers are trying to remove the sargassum with the bieldo, under the sun’s rays; while the sargassum that has been accumulated for days already gives off a rotting aroma due to its decomposition process, which emits gases.
Currently, the vast majority of the beaches in the south of the state and on the island of Cozumel present moderate and abundant sargassum shoaling, only five beaches maintain an excessive shoaling, which are: Molas, Xhanan, Bonita, Mezcalitos and Morena.