Mexico & Caribbean Seaweed Report

Seaweed in Mexico
Yucatan Times
Updated: Mar 18th, 2024 You say seaweed, we say sargassum….and those fancy-pants Floridians say ‘red bloom’…..we gotta admit, ‘red bloom’ does make it sound better, although not by much.

In a Nutshell: Seaweed – also called “sargassum” – is an increasing problem worldwide as ocean temps climb and weather patterns change, but it’s especially problematic in the Caribbean, including the east coast of Mexico. The state of Quintana Roo, Mexico has invested $200 million pesos (about $10 million USD) to combat the seaweed problem ,with some creative plans to deflect (most of) the stuff before it hits the beaches, making the daily beach cleaning faster and easier.

Why is the seaweed so bad in the Caribbean?

Despite the investment, seaweed is, and will continue to be, a problem for beach-goers in many locations, including the southeastern U.S….it’s not a “Mexico” problem, it’s a “tropical climate” problem, occurring in many places around the equator, where beaches and shorelines tend to be tourism magnets.

With an ever-growing global population, much of the world is increasing agricultural acreage and output, the result of which is that for a number of years the oceans have seen increasing amounts of agricultural run-off, particularly fertilizers and other nutrient-rich waste, that together with warmer ocean temps results in an overgrowth or “bloom” of algae. The size and depth of these blooms ebbs and flows based on weather conditions and currents, but is seen by most experts as a problem that will only continue to worsen.

If you’re interested in a fuller explanation of the seaweed problem in Cancun, here’s a terrific article from science.Org:

What all that means is that some years will be very bad for washed-ashore seaweed, other years won’t be so bad. And since weather conditions can change overnight, predicting how bad it will be is very difficult for anyone to forecast.

“The issue is that we never know what it’s going to be like – we can have a week or two weeks where it’s very clear and then all of a sudden overnight it washes in,” says Larry Basham of Elite Island Resorts, which runs St James’s Club.

RESOURCES: See below under “More Resources” for links to some cool seaweed maps!

How Bad Is Seaweed in Cancun?

It’s bad. It’s bad all over the Gulf of Mexico, including southeastern US beaches as well as numerous other Caribbean countries, but when folks head to Mexico for a beach getaway, they don’t want to have to wade through piles of stinky rotting seaweed to get to the water. And it’s having a negative effect on tourism wherever it’s making landfall.

SO, Q-Roo (the state’s rapper name) is stepping up it’s game and has contracted with a company to use a plastic barriers (made out of canvas, with buoys to float) to block most of the seaweed in the Caribbean from reaching the shore.

What’s the latest news on Seaweed in Cancun?

Tourism officials in Cancun don’t expect their keep-it-off-the-beaches plan to solve the problem (because it depends on the currents, ocean temps, and the wind), but claim that it can reduce the quantity of seaweed that arrives at the beaches.

And for you fish-huggers, don’t worry about the fauna, because the Ecology and Environment Secretary swears that they can just “swim right under the barriers”.

Where can I go to avoid the seaweed?

We have a popular FAQ on this topic – where to go to avoid the seaweed problem….

Where can I go to avoid the seaweed problem?»

That’s a great question! As the ocean temperature changes so does the seaweed problem, some years there is little to no seaweed (also called “sargassum”), in other years there is an over-abundance of the stinky stuff. Weather — sometimes far offshore — also has an effect. These factors can be hard to predict, and sometimes last for weeks or months, often changing overnight.

Your friends might have a perfect seaweed-free vacation just the week before your trip to the same destination, when you might encounter a daily pile-up of seaweed.

What that means is that it’s hard for anyone, expert or not, to tell you exactly when or where to go to avoid seaweed, but you do have SOME options.

It’s also important to know that the government of popular Caribbean tourist destinations including Mexico, along with many in the tourism industry, are now spending millions of dollars to combat the problem. One solution being implemented is off-shore nets that will keep the stuff from hitting the beach.

More Reading:

Want to know more about when/where/why seaweed is more of a problem than it used to be?
Mexico & Caribbean Seaweed Report


More Resources:

Here’s a Mexico/Riviera Maya-specific updated Seaweed Map:

Here’s a cool interactive Global Seaweed Map (scroll down that page to find the map):

Follow the latest seaweed updates with the Riviera Maya News’ Sargassum Report.

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About Trisha Miller - Editor-in-Chief 59 Articles
Trisha is also the Editor-in-Chief at Travel Writers Exchange, a community for travel writers & bloggers. She's also a member of the Society of Professional Journalists, and a former member of the IFWTWA, serving on their Board of Directors from 2009 through 2015. When not traveling the world visiting the many all-inclusive resorts she loves, Trisha spends her time writing, mainly about travel and technology, sometimes both at the same time.
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