An innovative concept to prevent seaweed from reaching Cancun and Riviera Maya beaches is producing some positive results. A beach in Tulum was used as a test site where nets were placed into the sea in an attempt to catch the Sargassum before it hits land.
The nets were placed about 10 meters out and vertically submerged to catch the Sargassum. Once caught by the nets, the seaweed is diverted into a channel that takes it to shore where it is manually removed by a staff hired specifically for this purpose.
So far, the nets are preventing approximately 80% of the kelp from reaching Cancun beaches. Although not a perfect system, it has the support of the workers hired to remove the Sargassum from the beaches which, as of late last week, weighed in at around 35 tons a day.
A group of technology students from Instituto Tecnológico Felipe Carrillo Puerto say that the kelp that is being collected can be composted and used as fertilizer on farms in local villages.
Coral Horacio de Jesus Aguilar, director of the Federal Maritime Terrestrial Zone, confirmed that the students’ idea is in the works. The Ministry of Environment has authorized a drop off site, and local businesses have been dropping it off at the designated site.
Meanwhile, the group is hoping to emulate a program used in France to recycle seaweed. According to Aguilar, they have consulted with specialists to determine the feasibility of converting the kelp into fertilizer and workshops on treating the Sargassum for agricultural use and production purposes have already been given.
The students have also been in contact with members from the Secretariat of Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fisheries and Food (SAGARPA) to arrange for the delivery of a special machine used to collect Sargassum directly from the water. If approved in coming months, this would be the pilot project.
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 expecting to see pristine beaches and endless stretches of white sand.
However, to date, it doesn’t seem that the seaweed problem has put a dent in Cancun’s tourism industry. The Cancun Convention & Visitors Bureau has reported occupancy rates of 93% during the first half of the year, an increase of 2.5% over last year.
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