“Hey guys, why is there so much seaweed everywhere on the beach? It is ugly and it smells terrible”. Lately we get this question quite often, so we decided to write a bit about it. Why there is so much sargassum seaweed in Cozumel, Playa Del Carmen and Tulum? Here we go.
Sargassum Seaweed on the beaches is common this time of the year; it just that we are having so much more this year. It’s Mother Nature at work and all we can do is clean up as much as possible and hold our breath as we walk along the beach until the sargassum goes away.
Seaweed is important in the Mexican Caribbean in which our spearfishing locations Cozumel, Playa del Carmen and Tulum are situated. Receiving so much has positive and negative effects. Sargassum can help bulk up eroding beaches. We are seeing that in Cozumel and Playa del Carmen. Seaweed also is important for fish; it provides habitat to juvenile and adult fishes, such as Mahi Mahi, Tuna, Mackerel, Barracuda, Swordfish, Sailfish, Marlin as well as endangered species such as Sea Turtles. It provides protection. They camouflage into it, and it provides their diet. But large amounts can also make it difficult for baby sea turtles (in Tulum for example) to find their way to the ocean. And generally speaking tourists don’t want to see or smell any seaweed at all…
Now, where is all this seaweed coming from? It is coming to us from the Sargasso Sea, close to Bermuda, a vast patch of ocean named for a big area of free-floating seaweed called Sargassum. While there are many different types of algae found floating in the ocean all around the world, the Sargasso Sea is unique in that it holds species of sargassum that reproduces on the high seas. Other seaweeds reproduce on the bottom of the ocean. When the Sargassum reaches the beaches it immediately dies. That is when we see birds coming down for a feeding frenzy. The combining stench of decomposing sargassum and marine creatures in it soon becomes a smelly inconvenience…
So what is causing such major washing up on the beaches? Well, experts believe it has a lot to do with the currents and global warming that shown to affect seaweed to varying degrees; Another theory points to wastewater and other pollution supplying nutrients for the algae to grow; a different temperature alone can’t make more seaweed. Some scientists think that the extreme Sargassum growth pins some of the blame on the BP Deepwater Horizon blowout in 2010. As the oil from the spill broke down, it released nutrients that fueled the algae.
More info, check out these links:
Interesting article, what you need to know about sargassum seaweed: https://www.linkedin.com/
The Sargasso Sea Commission: http://www.sargassoalliance.
A 1 hour presentation, secrets of the Sargasso Sea: https://youtu.be/M91toV0zIps
When you travel to Cozumel, Playa del Carmen and Tulum, remember sargassum seaweed on the beach is only temporary and it’s fairly unpredictable, so don’t let its presence in the Caribbean affect your travel plans.