Posted: Tuesday, May 24, 2022. 4:02 pm CST.
By Benjamin Flowers: The Government of Belize recently sent a team to Mexico to learn how authorities there are handling the sargassum seaweed problem that plagues the region around this time each year.
In a recent appearance on Channel 5’s Open Your Eyes morning talk show, Minister of Blue Economy and Civil Aviation, Andre Perez, said that the team, which was comprised of members from the Ministry of Sustainable Development, the Ministry of Tourism, and the Blue Economy, went to Playa del Carmen to see the operations of a project that seeks to address sargassum accumulation on beaches.
“They have adopted six kilometers of beach and the work they are doing is tremendous. It involved a fleet of pontoon boats that has the capability of floating on very shallow waters and the idea is not to wait for the sargassum to get to shores but rather capture it on the waters,” Perez said.
Perez went on to say that the fleet of boats then takes the sargassum extracted from the sea and places it on a large barge, which then takes it to a collection site where a wide range of options becomes available such as using the seaweed for landfill or to produce methane for energy. Perez noted that the people involved in the project came to Belize and went to San Pedro to assess the feasibility of performing something similar here. He also noted that Belize’s barrier reef makes for a more unique situation than what is happening in Mexico.
“The reef has channels. When you take those flights coming into Belize City you can clearly see those swats of sargassum coming in and they come through these cuts and they come to the shallow waters. It disperses and comes to the island. So, we believe that and make those attempts to capture that sargassum in those cuts,” Perez added.
Sargassum has been a problem in the region since 2011, and in Belize since 2014. The BBC notes that rising global temperatures, deforestation, and increasing nitrate levels in seawater due to fertilizer being washed into the ocean are among the major reasons for the masses of sargassum that pile up on beaches every year. Apart from being unsightly, the plants give off a putrid smell when they begin to decompose, which drives tourists from areas that would otherwise be used for recreation. This in turn causes economic loss to businesses in affected areas.
In Belize, there was even a national sargassum task force put together back in 2018, in an effort to address the problem.
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