Mexico just invested millions of pesos on their sargassum problem; they are installing barriers along the entire Yucatan peninsula from Cancun to Chetumal to divert the seaweed away from their beaches and into an area where they can more easily remove it. Things could look dreadful for Belize; will all that tonnage of sargassum be pushed our way and suffocate us even more?
Step in Captain Sharks! This weekend, Captain Shark's Marine and Boatyard brought out the big guns and started testing their sargassum skimmer which they built at their Boatyard in San Pedro, Ambergris Caye. It is an innovative conveyor machine designed to be taken directly to the beach and into the water and start the removal of the dreaded sargassum with minimal effort, back-breaking and time-consuming labor.
In its first trial run, it has proven to be effective and faster in clearing up the accumulating sargassum, something James Ritchie is excited and proud of. Island residents are struggling to keep up while the situation is getting worse. The San Pedro Town Council is concentrating in keeping about mile of beach in the down town area clean, from the town library up to Boca del Rio Park. Hotels, businesses and private property owners are busy too with their own cleanup efforts. It’s a hard, manual task that seems almost impossible.
“Lots of great minds trying to help and make a difference with the sargasso problems that the island has been facing,” commented James Ritchie of Captain Sharks. “We could not sit down with our arms crossed anymore; with some research and island ingenuity, we came up with this machine that was entirely built on the island in our boat yard facility.”
The idea is for the portable skimmer to be placed at the water’s edge where a system of floating booms, that stretch over 100 feet out into the water, to direct the sargassum into the machine’s conveyor belt. The moving belt is equipped with rake-like teeth to easily pick up the sargassum, move it out of the water and onto the beach or receiving tuck. It can be powered by a generator or simply plugged into a regular electrical outlet.
IT WORKS! With minor adjustments the skimmer proved to be a success and the crew at Captain Sharks could not be happier with the results. Ritchie stated that it can operate overnight and produce excellent results in effectively removing a huge portion of the accumulating sargassum in a designated area with minimum hard labor.
There are still some alterations needed on the machine, but Ritchie says they will soon have it up and running with zero issues. James has the idea of renting out the machine, but there are already some resorts interested in purchasing it immediately. Ritchie says they can and will produce more, as he expects a strong demand for the skimmer.
Is it time for the government of Belize to call the sargassum issue a national disaster? Is it time for them to step up with assistance in the clean up efforts? Is it time for government to help find alternative uses for sargassum other than landfill? It is a situation that impacts the country’s tourism industry, endangers marine life and human health. We think its something that needs urgent attention. Mexico is investing millions of dollars into possible solutions for the problem, it might be long overdue for Belize to start thinking likewise. Captain Sharks has the right idea and mindset that is a positive start in the battle against sargassum.
Might this be the start of the red tide phenomenon on Ambergris Caye, Belize? This aerial view of the southern-most tip of the island shows how the sargassum has leached reddish/brown toxins into the water as it decomposes along the coastline, detrimental to marine life and human health as it contaminates the water.
Sargassum patches floating and drifting towards the coast of San Pedro, Ambergris Caye