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A brown, smelly seaweed called sargassum is invading the most popular destinations in the Caribbean, potentially ruining the vacations of millions of travelers this summer. While most travelers head to the Caribbean in search of soft sand, clear blue seas, and a vacation that is fun for all the senses, the reality this summer could be very different – top destinations like Cancun, Punta Cana, and Jamaica have recently succumbed to long, hard battles with smelly algae.
While it is not an entirely new problem, the unfortunate timing of the sargassum invasion comes just as many travelers have been looking to travel abroad again after years of traveling hell during the pandemic, which means that their long-awaited trips are in great jeopardy. spoiled by seaweed; Here’s a look at what sargassum is, which destinations have been affected and how the battle to remove it from beaches continues.
What is sargassum? Information for travelers
Sargassum is a type of brown algae that often washes up on beaches across the Caribbean and even into the United States. When mountains of seaweed rot on the beach, they release hydrogen sulfide – a gas that has a foul odor that smells like rotten eggs. Although completely harmless to humans, the unsightly and smelly nature of rotting sargassum means that it risks ruining the beach-based activities of millions of potential travelers this summer.
Where does sargassum cause problems? What travelers should know
Sargassum is a serious problem in Mexico, where the presence of seaweed has a significant negative impact on tourism. Cancun is expecting its worst season in five years, which is bound to affect local tourism levels and see travelers choosing more sargassum-free areas to visit instead, such as Los Cabos. Extreme solutions, such as the installation of a 60 km sea barrier, have been put forward, as the country is working to tackle this problem.
The Mexican Navy has also been working to keep seaweeds from coming ashore for years, with little success. This year, using tools such as boats and nets, the Navy was able to collect only about 1% of the total amount of sargassum from the coast. The Navy cited equipment failure as the reason for their failure to prevent further showers on shore, and led them to conclude that they had failed in their efforts.
However, Mexico is not the only country that suffers from stinky seaweed. Sargassum has also invaded several beaches in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, with large concentrations near the Iberostar Selection Bavaro and Bahia Principe Punta Cana hotels in particular. Instead of the pristine beaches that travelers in the area are accustomed to, they encounter unattractive, smelly brown beaches – and the problem is expected to worsen in the coming months.
Like Mexico, the Dominican Republic has tried in vain to control the spread of sargassum. A 12.7 km long barrier was erected to prevent it from reaching the beaches, and armies of hotel workers tried to clean it up, but it is an expensive and time-consuming work. As in previous years, the proliferation of sargassum is expected to have a negative impact on the number of hotel reservations in the region.
Jamaica’s National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) has also warned that the country may be prepared for a significant influx of sargassum over the coming months. Several beaches in the parishes of St. Mary, Portland, St. Thomas and St. Catherine are already struggling with their presence, with the agency explaining that the spread of sargassum in the Caribbean is part of the “new normal.” Barbados is also experiencing sargassum infestation, with the problem expected to spread further across the region this summer.
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