Is Sargassum really a problem for investors?


June 24, 2020

Surely you have seen it on the news: sargassum has plagued Mexico’s top Caribbean beaches.

Tourists -both Mexicans and foreigners- are tempted to cancel their vacations in Mexican Caribbean because sargassum.

But not only tourists: people who were looking to invest in real estate developments in Tulum or real estate developments in Rivera Maya are wondering if their investment is feasible.

The term ‘sargassum invasion’ -that has been spread in media and internet- seems to present a pretty scary picture, but in fact, the arrival of sargassum is not the end of the world neither a new phenomenon in Coasts of Mexico: Mexican authorities are ready for it.

Before you rush to cancel you vacations and miss the chance to enjoy Yucatan Peninsula, we tell you everything you need to know about sargassum, its arrival  and the actions taken by the authorities so that your vacations, residence or the investments you have planned in beaches of Mexico don’t get affected.

What is sargassum and why it causes panic?

The first thing that needs to be clarified is what is sargassum.

Although news about sargassum has spread in recent weeks, a very few have really focused in give real information about this natural phenomenon that is quite common in Mexico, Brazil and even Coasts of the United States.

Sargassum is a multicellular macroalgae: a large algae and has more than one cell in its structure. It comes from the Atlantic Ocean and that’s why this phenomenon affects directly the coasts of the Yucatan Peninsula, as well as the east coast of Florida and Barbados, just to name a few.

Sargasso Sea is a region that is distinguished by the few or almost non-existent sea currents, and it exists thanks to the Atlantic Ocean characteristics. The same occurs with the presence of winds, and due the lack of water mobility, conditions of this area are perfect for accumulation of sea plants such as algae and plankton. However, Sargasso Sea is capable of moving. In fact, it was one of Cristopher Columbus’ discoveries and navigators used it as a ship graveyard, because in Sargasso Sea animal presence is almost nil. Currents that surround Sargasso Sea causes collision between hot water and cold water, generating a slow clockwise movement.

Is Sargassum really a problem for investors?
Sargassum is a macroalgae that comes from the Atlantic Ocean.  Its reproduction increases in warmer waters, that's why coasts of Mexico, Brazil and the U.S. are most affected by the seaweed.

Sargassum comes from algae that grows and sticks to rocks, blocking the passage of sailors. Because of stranded ships, sailors had enough time to analyze the seaweed that got its name thanks to Portuguese sailors who saw the resemblance between the seaweed and a type of vine.

Although sargassum could initially only be found in a specific area, it was adapting until it was able to float in the Atlantic Ocean. That’s why reproduction of sargassum increases in warmer waters, and the experts assure that several Sargasso Seas have been found in Atlantic Ocean.

Water mobility is essential to reserve the marine life cycle, that’s why sargassum should not be considered anormal considering it’s flowing because sea currents. Although its reproduce but warmth and climate change have accelerated seaweed reproduction. In fact, however, climate change and heat waves have changed reproduction cycle of sargassum, which take advantage of nutrients and pollution to proliferate.

In everything you need to know about Tulum and things to do in Tulum, we told you the importance of Sian Ka’an Reserve and the second biggest reef in the world, located in that zone. Tourists wonder if sargassum is going to stop them from visiting this place or ruin their vacations. That concern is also shared by Mexican Government; and even U.S. authorities, who fear that the arrival of sargassum affects affects the presence of tourists from Asia on its coasts - which are part of its strongest market.

For this reason, the search for ways to neutralize the phenomenon is a priority for governments and citizens who want to fight climate change to create a sustainable world.

Banner of real estate developments in Tulum.

Is Sargassum really a problem for investors?

No, sargassum is not a problem for investors and even if you don’t believe it, it’s an opportunity. With the boom of green economy -a model that aims for sustainability-, people are finding ways to use available resources to reduce environmental impact, and notebooks, block notes and even shoes are some of the sargassum made products.

As we explained, sargassum has existed over time but ocean warming and nutrient pollution have caused this plant to reproduce and invade more places. Affected countries have taken this issue very seriously, organizing lectures and conferences in order to learn more about sargassum and how to control it.

Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) are some of the institutions interested in sharing their researches about sargassum with countries, and currently, they have proposed a plan that Mexico will implement as a pilot program. Also, Mexican authorities have created methods for sargassum containment so that the flora and fauna of the Caribbean are not affected.

Is Sargassum really a problem for investors?
Sargánico is a Mexican company that sell products made of sargassum, such as notebooks and cup holders. It was founded by Victoria Abril Curiel Morfín, a woman from Cozumel, Quintana Roo.

Mexican are using their creativity to use sargassum in different ways. Omar Velázquez Sánchez, for example, created sargassum bricks to build homes. He saw the potencial of using the seaweed in construction industry: sargassum bricks are tough and cost 30% less than regular bricks.

Sargassum can also be used to make notebooks. Victoria Abril Curiel Morfín, from Cozumel, is responsible for creating paper from sargassum. The notebooks she creates are made with 80% sargassum and 20% recycled paper. Her company, Sargánico, uses a kilo of the seaweed to make a pocket notebook and currently is creating cup and menu holders in order to expand the use of sargassum in hospitality industry.

In Guadalajara, a company named Renovare Ocean is making shoes with sargassum and PET plastic and designed the OVA sneakers and every pair of shoes is made with 100 grams of sargassum and 5 or 8 plastic bottles. The company is looking to create sustainable fashion in order to fight climate change.

Is Sargassum really a problem for investors?
The sole of shoes designed by Renovare not only is it eco friendly, but also a very creative way to combat sargassum.

Sargassum is being controlled

Mexican authorities are researching and creating new methods to combat sargassum with the help of the hospitality industry and society. Gathering and experimental programs are some of the methods that could also be used by Caribbean countries and the U.S.

While the concern of tourist is not being able to enjoy Riviera Maya and Tulum beaches, there are more tourist attractions to enjoy. Mayan ruins like those of Tulum, cenotes, local culture and ecotourism are good options to enjoy in Mexican southeast. Thanks to their location, cities like Merida, Valladolid and Tulum are nearby, allowing visitors to know more about what Mexico has to offer.

Sargassum is not an impediment to real estate investment because it has existed since a long time ago, the difference is that globalization, internet and social media didn’t exist so there was no way to know what was happening in the world in real time.

Banner of real estate developments in the Riviera Maya.

Responsible consumption and sustainability were not common practices, and as you read on 5 reasons to invest in Tulum, Tulum is one of the cities whose sustainability policy would make it the best area for sustainable tourism in Mexico. That’s why it is no surprise that citizens are helping and finding ways to use sargassum and contribute to society.

Because Tulum, Riviera Maya and Merida are top destinations in Mexico, local people who work in these places and also foreigners who visit, relax and explore the natural wonders of the Mayan lands have benefited in many ways, and therefore, although presence of sargassum in Caribbean beaches may seem somewhat negative, it is not a worst case scenario.

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