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May 11, 2022

San Pedro Town Council Discusses Ways of Dealing with Sargassum

The years-old seasonal invasion of the sea grass known as sargassum had made itself scarce for the last couple years, but this year, it has once again shown up along this region. Most of the coastal communities along its path, including La Isla Bonita are seeing, and smelling, rotting sargassum along their shorelines. And this year, its visit is more than unmanageable for stakeholders to keep up with. News Five’s Marion Ali visited San Pedro today to find out how that tourist attraction will try to deter sargassum from seriously affecting their community this year. Here’s her report.


Marion Ali, Reporting

It originates in the Sargasso Sea in the North Atlantic, but for several years, this brown sea grass has been drifting towards this side of the world at certain times of the year, washing up on the shores of coastal countries and communities. When it begins to rot, it releases a pungent odor and an appearance that makes the shoreline everything but aesthetically pleasing. The eastern beach in San Pedro has not been spared of the sargassum invasion, but the town council has convened an urgent meeting with the Sargassum Task Force, as well as residents, to come up with a way forward on how it will address the issue.


Gualberto Nunez

Gualberto Nunez, Mayor, San Pedro

“It is quite unmanageable that we ran out of manpower and so we are employing, temporarily, about twenty to twenty-five more employees, so we opened it up for employment so that we can get more assistance. Unless we have the pontoons that are made to collect it with the conveyor belt.   So we do need the assistance from everybody, so that’s the main reason why we’re having this meeting today so that we can come up with different ideas and a possible solution for it.”


One of the sectors that will be represented to discuss cleaning up the sargassum is the Tour Operators Association.


Roberto Canul

Roberto Canul, President, San Pedro Tour Operators Association

“We believe that it is our duty to involve ourselves in the community, especially when it comes to situations like this – that everybody is affected by, right, and not only the tour operators that have businesses on the waterside, but there are also restaurants, bars, different businesses that are affected by this situation.  It is unfair for us to just depend on our government or our town council here locally to battle this problem on their own.”


Canul says that so far, there have been no cancellations at hotels within the town itself, but three miles north at Matachica Resort; the sargassum invasion has interrupted business.


Wolfgang Brandl

Wolfgang Brandl, Managing Director, Matachica Resort & Cayo River Lodge

“We are paying back a lot of money to tourists in compensation when we receive complaints about sargassum. Yeah, that can go anywhere from free meals to free night stay, we have to refund their night’s stay.”


Wolfgang Brandl says the resort has had to make some expensive cleaning up investments.


Wolfgang Brandl

“We employ an additional eight people on a daily basis, including transportation, meals and all of that. They start at five-thirty in the morning and the don’t stop until four-thirty in the afternoon. We have three ATVs with trailers running the whole day just taking whatever they are piling up – taking it in the back where we have the landfilling. But it is a daily battle and it’s very cost-intensive to run this operation. I mean it’s eight labourers that we are paying seven days a week.”


The seagrass causes far more lasting effects than an unsightly and unpleasant smell. It also impacts the environment.


Gualberto Nunez

“The sand that they’re taking from the beach is actually what they’re actually what they’re taking for landfill which has been contributing more and more to the erosion of our beaches. So it is a problem.”


Wolfgang Brandl 

“The water quality, if you look here, our pier is three hundred feet long, so three hundred and fifty feet out this discolored, brown, not very inviting water that we are not used to.  As soon as it reaches the shoreline and start to get expose to the oxygen and starts to break down the stench is sometimes unbearable.”


One way that Mayor Nunez explained they are contemplating getting rid of this unbearable problem is to entertain potential investors who want to export the sea grass.


Gualberto Nunez

“I had an investor yesterday that came over to the Council who is very interested in possibly exporting it. He is doing some studies with it to see if they can utilize it for – to make blocks for burning, like for firewood.   We’re inviting him over to be a part of this to discuss and see if that would be a solution to our problem.”


We’ll follow on the sargassum problem on Thursday for an update. Marion Ali for News Five.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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