Mexico sends in the navy to combat giant seaweed

Mexico sends in the navy to combat giant seaweed

Thursday, October 29, 2015, 3:37 PM – Seaweed has been choking some of the Caribbean’s most beautiful beaches since July. Mexico has been particularly hard hit, with authorities spending the equivalent to $12 million CAD to combat the problem. Now, the navy has been called in to track the seaweed and determine why it keeps washing ashore, despite numerous eradication efforts.

The seaweed, a viny brown species known as sargassum, has infiltrated beaches in Barbados, Belize and across Mexico.

In some areas, piles of stinky, insect-infested seaweed stand one-metre tall.

Tourists have been forced to change or cancel vacation plans, putting a dent in Mexico’s tourism industry. That was exacerbated earlier this month when Hurricane Patricia made landfall as a Category 5 hurricane 85 km west of Manzanillo.

Mexican authorities have hired 5,000 people assigned to four-hour shifts to rake seaweed from a 160-kilometre stretch of beach.

But it keeps coming back, and scientists are said to be baffled. According to the Washington Post who quotes Chuanmin Hu, professor of optical oceanography at the University of South Florida, the recent invasion is the largest coverage ever seen in recorded history.

Hu has calculated there was nearly 32,000 square kilometres of sargassum floating around in July, compared with 5,956 square kilometres in 2011.

“It’s in the entire tropical Atlantic,” Hu told the publication.

“It’s amazing.”

Naval oceanographers have been deployed to track the seaweed. They are also testing a hydraulic suck-pump that has been used successfully in the Dominican Republic.

Meanwhile, there are proposals to purchase floating barriers that will block the seaweed before it reaches the shore.

“The best way to collect sargassum is in the sea, before it sinks,” Rear Adm. Fernando Alfonso Angli Rodriguez, the navy’s director general for oceanography told the Washington Post.

“We are working on this very hard.”

Source: The Washington Post