- Title: Besieged by seaweed, Caribbean scrambles to make use of the stuff
- Date: 29th September 2021
- Summary: PUERTO MORELOS, QUINTANA ROO, MEXICO (SEPTEMBER 27, 2021) (REUTERS) (SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) RESEARCHER AT UNAM UNIVERSITY'S INSTITUTE OF MARINE SCIENCES AND LIMNOLOGY, DR. ROSA ELISA RODRIGUEZ, SAYING: "We got the perfect storm - seaweed arrived, there were nutrients, the water was warm and this helps the seaweed to propagate. Now it is there and since seaweed reproduces really fast - it can duplicate its biomass in 20 days - it keeps on growing and growing and reproducing. That is why we are getting so much of it."
- Embargoed: 13th October 2021 14:21
- Keywords: Cancun Caribbean Mexico bricks sargassum sargazo seaweed
- Location: PUERTO MORELOS & CANCUN, QUINTANA ROO, MEXICO
- City: PUERTO MORELOS & CANCUN, QUINTANA ROO, MEXICO
- Country: Mexico
- Topics: Pollution,Environment,South America / Central America
- Reuters ID: LVA004EWRTIYV
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: As the sun rises in Mexico's Quintana Roo state, Mexico's navy is being deployed for another day of dragging rafts of brown seaweed to shore, where it is hauled far away from the view of cocktail-sipping tourists.
The navy has coordinated with the state and local governments to keep Quintana Roo's beaches pristine and protect its nearly $25-billion visitor trade, according to Mexico's national tourism business council.
When it washes ashore, the plant - known as Sargasso seaweed - turns black and emits a sewage-like stench so powerful it has been known to make travellers ill.
It attracts insects and turns the area's famed turquoise snorkeling waters a sickly brown.
And it just keeps coming.
Since 2011, the seaweed here and across the Caribbean has exploded for reasons scientists suspect is related to climate change but don't yet fully understand.
In Quintana Roo alone, Mexico's Navy since March has removed more than 37,000 tons of sargassum -- the weight of three Eiffel Towers -- from beaches and surrounding waters.
Entrepreneurs across the region, meanwhile, are searching for ways of monetizing the muck.
They're experimenting with seaweed-based products including animal feed, construction material - even signature cocktails.
But Dr. Rodrigues says Mexico needs more infrastructure in order to properly establish a sargassum industry. "Ideally we'd have industries that'd use tons of it because thousands of tons sargassum arrive here every year."
Whether such efforts prove viable remains to be seen. Commercializing seaweed can be challenging given the expensive collection efforts and a lack of government regulation around harvesting techniques. Still, creativity is blossoming along with the seaweed.
In the Mexican town of Puerto Morales, seaweed is being turned into construction material.
The resulting sargassum "bricks," baked in the sun, can be used for homes instead of traditional cement blocks.
Sargassum is most famously found in the Sargasso Sea in the north Atlantic, where the seaweed has been documented for hundreds of years. How sargassum traveled south to the tropical Atlantic is unclear.
Some scientists have theorized that the intense 2010 hurricane season may have carried a bit of it to the central western Atlantic, planting the seed for a new sargassum belt.
It is unclear why the Caribbean sargassum blooms have grown to such monstrous masses. Scientists say climate change, water pollution, Amazon deforestation and dust blowing in from the Sahara Desert are all likely factors at play.
(Production: Cassandra Garrison, Rodolfo Pena Roja, Nina Lopez)
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