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Seaweed landings in the Caribbean

It is natural for seaweed to wash up on the beach from season to season, after storms and in the summer heat. However, this summer larger quantities of two species of seaweed known as Gulfweed or Sargassum (Sargassum natans and Sargassum fluitans) are coming ashore from time to time in the Riviera Maya, Cancun and other parts of the Mexican Caribbean. These landings occur periodically, the amount of seaweed varies and not all beaches are affected.

Similar landings are occurring in the Caribbean islands and along the Gulf coast of the United States.

The word Sargassum comes from the Portuguese word sargaço, which means “little grapes,” a reference to the air-filled bladders that enables it to float on the surface and move with the currents. Unlike other algae that are rooted in the seabed or attached to rocks or corals, pelagic or free floating sargassum grows and reproduces as it drifts through the water.

Pelagic Sargassum seaweed is historically associated with the Sargasso Sea in the North Atlantic Ocean where vast beds of it are a habitat for marine life such as microscopic plants, shrimp, crabs, sea horses, baby fish and turtles.

Sometimes ocean currents transport lines or patches of this seaweed to areas beyond the Sargasso Sea. However, biologists believe that the Sargassum affecting the Caribbean islands and the coast of Quintana Roo may have a different source, an area off the coast of northern Brazil, thousands of kilometers away. The causes of the seaweed proliferation or bloom have been attributed to rising sea temperatures due to global warming and excessive nutrients in the water flowing into the sea from the Amazon River and its many tributaries. The appearance of drifting mats of sargassum where they were previously very rare may also be linked to variations in currents and wind patterns.

Beach cleaning in Quintana Roo
A statewide campaign is underway to track the movement of patches of drifting sargassum and to collect and dispose of the seaweed when it comes ashore on public beaches in different parts of the Mexican Caribbean. The Mexican government pledged additional funds for beach cleaning during the summer. Many hotels and resorts have their own cleaning programs and there are volunteer beach cleaning initiatives too.

Based on the recommendations of marine scientists, the authorities are now implementing a second phase of the program to prevent the sargassum from coming ashore by installing barriers in the sea. The first barrier will be installed in the Punta Nizuc area in the coming days and will be followed by additional barriers in Tulum and Playa del Carmen, Mahahual and Puerto Morelos.

The barriers are anchored to the seabed but float on the surface of the water perpendicular to the coast. Each one is 30 meters long and they can be connected to form a chain. They will be installed in areas where sargassum landings are the most frequent, taking into account the circulation of ocean currents and wind direction. They do not trap the sargassum but are designed to deflect it so that the currents move it away from the shoreline.

The barriers will not impede the movement of marine creatures nor trap them, affect coral reefs or the sea grass beds and they can be dismantled as the sargassum diminishes with the arrival of cooler temperatures in September and October.

In Puerto Morelos, the local authorities are also collecting the seaweed in a boat before it reaches the shallows.

Royal Resorts
Beach cleaning has been redoubled at the Royal Resorts in Cancun in recent weeks. It is taking place at night and in the morning. The local authorities are permitting the use of a tractor at this time as long as it is on wet sand in the zone where the waves break. An additional cleaning brigade was brought in at The Royal Sands, The Royal Caribbean and The Royal Islander for June, July and August.

Cleaning has also been stepped up at The Royal Cancun although seaweed landings principally affect the stretch of Cancun shoreline from Punta Cancun to Punta Nizuc that faces the open ocean.

Grand Residences by Royal Resorts
At Grand Residences by Royal Resorts to the south of Puerto Morelos, a mechanized beach sweeper operates twice a day. If needed, the resort’s team of gardeners is on call to offer additional support.

The Royal Haciendas
The Royal Haciendas is doing its best to keep the beach clean with volunteers and an external team that has been hired by the resort for this duty. With additional personnel and the use of the tractor, the aim is for a more efficient removal process, however sometimes more seaweed comes ashore later in the day.

Turtle nesting season
It is turtle nesting season and in the Riviera Maya government beach cleaning regulations prohibit the use of heavy machinery on dry sand to prevent it from compacting or causing irreversible damage to turtle nests and eggs. This means that at The Royal Haciendas the tractor can only be used on the shoreline where the waves break and at certain times of the day.

All along the coast, turtle patrols are keeping an eye on adult turtles coming ashore to nest on beaches at times when there are seaweed landings. They will also watch over the hatchlings as they are born later in the season to ensure that they do not become entangled in it.

Swimming tips
Seaweed washes up on the beach naturally and is an important habitat for marine life. The presence of seaweed does not mean that beaches are polluted. You can still swim in the sea.

Showering after swimming is recommended and swimsuits should be rinsed out after use. Seaweed will not sting you. However, microscopic creatures or insects may be trapped in the weed and can occasionally irritate the skin, hence the recommendation to rinse off after sea bathing.

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Mexico welcomes even more visitors in 2018

The Mexican Tourism Board recently announced that in March, Mexico welcomed four million international visitors, 14.6 percent more than the same month in 2017.
From January to March, the number of Canadian visitors to Mexico rose 17.4 percent over the same period in 2017. Two million Canadians visited Mexico in 2017.

According to the latest passenger statistics released by ASUR, the Airport authority that manages Cancun International Airport, it received almost 13 million visitors from January to June this year, a 7 percent increase over the same period this year. The number of Mexican passengers arriving on domestic flights rose by 12.5 percent and visitors on international flights by 4.7 percent. Cozumel Airport registered an increase of 3.7 percent in the number of passengers handled and in Merida numbers were also up by 13.6 percent.

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The world’s best city to visit, and it’s in Mexico

For the second year running, the readers of Travel & Leisure magazine have voted San Miguel de Allende, Mexico’s colonial jewel and UNESCO World Heritage Site, as the Best City in the World to visit. Another Mexican city, Oaxaca, also a treasure trove of history and traditions, comes in at number two and Mexico City is at number 11, a nod to its pre-Hispanic and colonial landmarks, museums, vibrant arts scene, shopping, dining and nightlife.

All three cities also featured in the Travel & Leisure listing of Best Cities in Mexico, along with Guadalajara and Merida and Isla Mujeres was one of the favorite Islands in Mexico, Central and South America.

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Mayan discoveries in southern Quintana Roo

Mexican archaeologists studying the ancient Mayan cities of Dzibanche, Kinichna, Tutil and Ichkabal in southern Quintana Roo have identified a network of sacbes or highways that once linked the sites. This discovery was made possible by the use of LIDAR remote sensing technology so sophisticated that it is capable of seeing what lies beneath the dense mantle of jungle vegetation.

In addition to residential areas and the palaces and temples of the ruling class, they have also identified the outlines of raised fields and cultivation terraces, irrigation canals and reservoirs, evidence of agriculture and water storage facilities to support the area population in the pre-Classic period of Mayan history.
(Source: Sipse)

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News about jaguar conservation in Mexico

At an international conference on the jaguar and other tropical felines found in the Americas held in Cancun, June 8 -15 and attended by representatives of 20 countries, Mexico shared some important information about the country’s population of jaguars. The Second National Jaguar Census revealed that there are around 4,800 jaguars in Mexico, an increase of 20 percent over that reported in 2010.

The Census was coordinated by the Institute of Ecology in the National University of Mexico (UNAM) with the support of the National Commission of Protected Areas (CONANP) and the World Wildlife Fund-Fundacion Telmex Telcel Alliance. Twenty-five groups from 16 different academic institutions took part, installing 396 camera traps in 11 different sites throughout Mexico. The census locations were Montes Azules and La Sepultura Biosphere Reserves in (Chiapas), Sierra del Abra Tanchipa (San Luis Potosí), Los Chimalapas (Oaxaca), Laguna Om and El Edén Reserve (Quintana Roo), Nevado de Colima (Jalisco), Sahuaripa (Sonora), Meseta de Cacaxtla (Sinaloa), Sierra de Chilpancingo (Guerrero) and Punto Puuc (a point in the center of the Yucatan Peninsula where the states of Campeche, Yucatán and Quintana Roo converge).

Fitted to trees beside jungle trails used by wildlife or near water sources, the camera traps detect motion and take photos of jaguars, pumas and other creatures that pass by. For 60 days, the census cameras took photos of 20 different species, including peccaries, deer, agouti and wild turkey, all important prey animals for jaguars and pumas.

The survey results reflect heightened efforts to protect the jaguar, the largest feline in the Americas. The creation of new reserves in Mexico, improved coordination and census techniques, reforestation and increased awareness about the dangers this magnificent creature faces from habitat loss and illegal hunting are helping but more work is needed to bring this big cat back from the brink of extinction.

The creation of biological corridors linking reserves where jaguars are known to roam can help, as can reforestation, the protection of important swathes of forest under threat from development and adding wildlife passes (underpasses and bridges) on highways. Biologists are also working with rural communities and ranchers that see jaguars, pumas and ocelots as a danger to their livestock.

The largest populations of jaguars in Mexico are found in the southeast of the country, in the jungles of Quintana Roo, Campeche and Chiapas. In the Americas, the jaguar’s range extends from Arizona to Patagonia with the largest jaguar populations in the Amazon and Pantanal regions of Brazil. The number of jaguars in the wild stands at around 64,000. Throughout the region, governments, biologists and conservationists are looking to join forces in a global initiative to protect the species.

(Census information source: WWF)

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Cancun flight news

Here is the latest Cancun flight news, Canadian airline Sunwing has announced weekly flights from Val-d’Or, Quebec to Cancun for the winter season, operating from December 11 to April 16, 2019.

In more airline news, Southwest Airlines inaugurated new flights to Cancun from Pittsburgh and Raleigh-Durham in June. Air France has announced that it will be adding an extra flight to Cancun on its Paris route to meet growing demand. American Airlines will soon begin using larger capacity Dreamliners on its New York and Dallas routes to Cancun.
(Source: Sunwing news via Caribbean Journal)

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Cancun flight news

Here’s the latest Cancun flight news with several airlines expanding routes from cities in the US and Europe.

Southwest Airlines will be inaugurating two new routes in June linking Pittsburgh and Raleigh-Durham with Cancun.

In other flight news, Iberia Airlines will soon be operating direct flights to Cancun from Madrid, Spain and Evelop will boost the number of flights it offers from Portugal and Spain.

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Mexico expands protection for whale shark sanctuary

The Mexican government has expanded the management plan for the whale shark sanctuary in the Mexican Caribbean. The waters to the north of Holbox and the zone of deeper “blue water” to the east of Contoy and Isla Mujeres are now included in addition to the Whale Shark Biosphere Reserve that was created in 2009.

This decree protects the transition zone between the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean, an area of upwellings rich in nutrients that attracts species such as the whale shark and manta ray during the summer months to feed on the plankton that proliferates due to the higher temperatures.

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New museum to visit in Valladolid, Yucatan

The colonial town of Valladolid in Yucatan has a new museum to visit if you are interested in Mexican culture. El Museo de Ropa Etnica de Mexico or Mexican Ethnic Clothing Museum (MUREM) showcases traditional clothing worn in 12 different regions of the country.

The MUREM collection includes clothing worn by indigenous groups such as the Amusgo, Huastec, Chinantec, Yucatec, Tseltal and Tsotsil Maya, Mazahua, Mazatec, Mixtec, Nahua, Otomi, Tarahumara, Triqui and Zapotecs.

Embroidered cotton huipiles or dresses for everyday wear share space with splendid ribbon bedecked ceremonial dresses. Whatever their use, they are works of art full of color and creativity, decorated with designs featuring flowers, birds and animals or stripes, crosses and geometric shapes, symbols of the natural world and ancient beliefs.

There are brocaded blouses from Mayan communities in the highlands of Chiapas that are normally worn over black woollen skirts and tied with woven sashes. Each village has its own color and design and the styles have not changed that much in a thousand years. Other huipiles from Oaxaca, Yucatan and the central Mexican highlands also resemble the garments worn by women in pre-Hispanic times.

After the Spanish Conquest in the 16th century and the arrival of settlers from Spain, European fashions began to appear in Mexico, such as frills, lace, ribbons, shawls and fans. Many of Mexico’s most famous dresses show Spanish influence. They include lacy white dresses from Veracruz and colorful dresses worn in Campeche, Puebla and Jalisco.

Hats and headdresses, ribbons, traditional belts, shawls and jewelry complete the outfits on display and there is a collection of men’s clothing too. Other exhibits show contemporary items such as the masks worn by lucha libre wrestlers.

MUREM museum is located in Valladolid town center on Calle 41, No. 195, between Calle 38 and Calle 40. It is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and there is a shop selling Mexican crafts.

During a trip to Valladolid don’t miss the opportunity to visit Casa de Los Venados, a privately owned restored colonial home that has a collection of over 3,000 pieces of Mexican folk art on display. The exhibits include giant trees of life, colorful wooden and papier mâche alebrijes, clay figurines, jaguar carvings, Day of the Dead sculptures, Talavera ceramics, textiles and paintings by Mexican artists. Guided tours are available at 10 a.m., the admission is a donation to charity to support community projects in Valladolid. Location: Calle 40 No. 204 x 41, just off the main square.

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Puerto Morelos Botanical Garden turns 36

The Yaaxche-Alfredo Barrera Marin Botanical Garden in Puerto Morelos celebrates its thirty-sixth anniversary this June. With 65 hectares of jungle and wetlands, it is the second largest botanical garden in Mexico.

Trees and plants native to the Yucatán Peninsula grow in the garden, in addition to species from other tropical regions. There is a herb garden full of plants that the Maya use for healing and an exhibit about chicle, the gum harvested from the chicozapote tree that is the original raw ingredient for chewing gum. Wooden observation towers offer great views across the jungle and wetlands to the sea.

A visit to the Botanical Garden is a must for nature lovers. It is home to spider monkeys, coatimundi, deer, agouti and a variety of bird species ranging from parrots and motmots to forest falcons, toucans and hummingbirds.

The Botanical Garden is located just south of Puerto Morelos on Highway 307. It is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday to Friday and from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday. Take a camera, binoculars and use eco-friendly insect repellent to ward off biting insects.

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