Have you noticed a more-than-usual amount of seaweed in Royal Resorts beaches in recent years? In this article we’ll try to help answer some questions you may have on the subject.

What is the seaweed washing ashore in Cancun and Riviera Maya?

Sargassum is a genus of brown algae that floats freely in the ocean and never attaches to the ocean floor. This free-floating variety is only found in the Atlantic Ocean.

Sargassum provides refuge for migratory species and is an essential habitat for about 120 species of fish and about the same number of invertebrate species.

Sargassum provides shelter and food for endangered creatures like sea turtles and even for species with commercial importance such as tuna. The current sargassum influx carries two species: Sargassum natans and Sargassum fluitans.

Where is seaweed in Cancun coming from?

Since these are free-floating algae, they travel with the ocean current. We have been able to track the origins of this huge amount of algae to a few blooming zones in specific areas of the Atlantic, which are not directly related with the Sargasso Sea.

Sargassum organisms consolidate into large mats and are transported by ocean currents towards the Caribbean.

We cannot be sure if this will continue through the year. Some scientists associate this phenomenon with higher temperatures and decreased wind flow, which influence ocean currents, thus drawing a link to global climate change.

The occurrence of seaweed in Cancun and Riviera Maya is not necessarily an exclusive phenomena. Seaweed can make its appearance at any region in Caribbean all year long. At any time of the year there are multiple locations that can be affected.

Although it may not seem so, sargassum occurs naturally on the beaches all around the Caribbean. Nevertheless, the amount of sargassum this year is above average.

Sargassum decomposition on the beach plays a role in beach nourishment and is an important element of shoreline stability. Several sand dune plants take advantage of the nutrients from the sargassum.

Also, you might be able to see a higher amount of sea birds looking for food onshore or in the open sea.

Sargassum starts to smell as it decomposes, but it is not toxic to humans, nor does it present any topical risk, like itching or stinging.

When it decomposes on sand you might notice a black layer underneath but this is normal and a sign of Mother Nature doing her work of integrating the sargassum to the beach.

What is Royal doing with the Seaweed in Cancun and Riviera Maya Resorts?

All of the companies’ Resorts in Cancun and Riviera Maya are being affected by this influx are taking counter-measures focused on providing an excellent beach experience to our guests while keeping strict measures to ensure ecosystem preservation.

It might not seem so, but beach cleaning is a delicate activity and requires a series of best practices to avoid the loss of our precious white sand.

Ten years ago, we learned with Hurricane Wilma that beaches are sensitive ecosystems and we’re committed to the preservation of this beautiful treasure for the enjoyment of our current and future guests.

When you see the crew removing sargassum from the beach, you’ll probably find them burying it on another area of the beach later.

Our goal is to keep the smell away from our guests, while at the time we avoid removing sand from the beach. This is a very hard labor and our staff puts a huge effort in achieving this goal.

You may be asking yourself why we are not using heavy machinery to remove the sargassum from the beach and the reason is very simple: Turtles.

Marine turtles rely on the sand density to dig their nests from May to September and baby turtles rely on us not crushing them with heavy machinery while they are developing in their nests.

We’re sure you will agree that marine turtles are species of superb importance for the whole world and we cannot get carried away with the urge of removing natural elements on the beach if that affects species as important to the world as marine turtles, sea birds, fisheries, etcetera.

We sometimes find these events very humbling. We’re just pieces in Mother Nature’s game and most of the time we can do little but play according to her rules while trying to preserve this beautiful paradise we call home.

We look forward to welcoming you during your next visit to the Mexican Caribbean.

*Source:  Doyle, E and J. Franks. 2015. Sargassum Fact Sheet. Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries Institute.