Belize is lucky that is has not been hit hard with the influx of unwanted and unsightly Sargasso; other Caribbean and Central American countries are feeling the pressure with tons of seaweed posing a threat to their tourism industry. It stinks and takes away from the beach experience of visitors.
Mexico is pledging $1.9Mil towards cleanup campaigns of the massive amounts of Sargasso that has piled up along its Caribbean shores, affecting the popular tourist hotspots like Cancun, Playa del Carmen and Cozumel. The Caribbean nation of Tobago has deemed the Sargasso invasion a natural disaster, having injected $3Mil into cleanup efforts already.
The seasonal influx of Sargassum seaweed on Caribbean beaches has even gotten the attention of the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) and tourism policymakers and practitioners across the region.
“It is an unwelcome visitor which can be uncomfortable and which takes away from the beach experience for our guests,” stated the CTO in a press release. “Our Caribbean partners are treating this matter seriously and with urgency. We have engaged a number of regional and international institutions in our attempts at finding solutions, among them, universities.”
With the start of the region’s high tourism season a few months away, some officials are calling for an emergency meeting of the 15-nation Caribbean Community, worried that the worsening seaweed influx could become a chronic dilemma for the globe’s most tourism-dependent region.
Even though the problem is not as bad in Belize, businesses and residents are still feeling the negative effects of the seaweed that keeps on piling up. But it seems that residents on the island of Ambergris Caye are busy tackling the problem and working on solutions before the situation gets out of hand like at other locations in the Caribbean and Mexico.
While beachside businesses are keeping their beach sections clean, the San Pedro Town Council is looking at possible methods to keep public beaches clean of the never-ending Sargasso. The removal of the seaweed from the beach is being discouraged as valuable sand is also removed in the process, causing more erosion. The San Pedro Town Council is closely monitoring such operations that are clearing Sargasso piled up by their employees.
Other island residents are not sitting down with their arms crossed hoping that the problem goes away on its own. This has always been the “Hands On” aggressive nature of Ambergris Caye residents in getting things done. The Build-a-Beach Campaign group of volunteers is using the Sargasso to keep building the beach where it lands and are removing it from the shoreline before it starts rotting, decomposing and becoming an even intolerable nuisance.
Build-A-Beach Volunteers after their week seven Clean Up
Build-A-Beach Volunteers hard at work
Their method of working with the Sargasso has caught the attention of the San Pedro Town Council that sent some much-appreciated assistance this past weekend. The town’s backhoe was utilized to dig large holes along the beach while the volunteers filled it with Sargasso they had laid out to dry the week before. It helped move the progress much faster as the group intends to move to another beach, while they are encouraging other groups to start up in other beaches that need clearing.
This past Sunday, August 16, 2015, saw the assistance of a group of young teenagers who took time off their weekend to help their community. The Build-a-Beach campaign also took the initiative this week to collect funds from local businesses that donated $1 for every volunteer who showed up to help. Those funds will be donated to San Pedro Dance Academy that is teaming up with a group of parents to commence a Music Academy. People who wish to pledge for upcoming weeks are encouraged to visit the Build-a-Beach Facebook Page.
Sargassum experts say that while the sargassum washing up in normal amounts has long been good for the Caribbean, severe influxes like those seen lately are “harmful algal blooms” because they can cause fish kills, beach fouling, tourism losses and even coastal dead zones.
Whatever the reason, the massive sargassum flow is becoming a major challenge for tourism-dependent countries. It is great to see that San Pedro Town residents are taking action before the problem worsens to uncontrollable levels and starts affecting the tourism industry.