Mexico struggles to understand, solve, seaweed invasion

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Tourists are seen on a beach covered with seaweed in Cancun, Mexico June 24, 2019. (REUTERS)
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Seaweed is seen on a beach in Cancun, Mexico June 24, 2019. (REUTERS)
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This file photo taken on April 23, 2018 shows sargassum seaweed (sargasso) off the coasts of the city of Le Gosier on the French Caribbean Island of Guadeloupe. (AFP)
Updated 29 June 2019
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Mexico struggles to understand, solve, seaweed invasion

  • “Fighting sargassum is a chore every day,” said Cancun Mayor Mara Lezama

MEXICO CITY: Mexico has spent $17 million to remove over a half-million tons of sargassum seaweed from its Caribbean beaches, and the problem doesn’t seem likely to end any time soon, experts told an international conference Thursday.
The floating mats of algae seldom reached the famed beaches around Cancun until 2011, but they’re now severely affecting tourism, with visitors often facing stinking mounds of rotting seaweed at the waterline.
Initial reports suggested the seaweed came from an area of the Atlantic off the northern coast of Brazil, near the mouth of the Amazon River. Increased nutrient flows from deforestation or fertilizer runoff could be feeding the algae bloom.
But experts like oceanographer Donald R. Johnson said, “Do not blame the Brazilians.” Johnson said it appears that other causes contribute, like nutrient flows from the Congo River.
Increased upwelling of nutrient-laden deeper ocean water in the tropical Atlantic and dust blowing in from Africa may also be playing a role, according to Johnson, a senior researcher at the University of Southern Mississippi Gulf Coast Research Laboratory.
While it sometimes appears sargassum mats float west into the Caribbean, experts say the seaweed actually appears to be sloshing back and forth between the Caribbean and Africa.
It all has the local population — which depends of tourism — fed up.
“Fighting sargassum is a chore every day,” said Cancun Mayor Mara Lezama. “You clean the beaches in the morning, and sometimes you clean them again in the afternoon or at night, and then you have to go back and clean it again.”
Ricardo del Valle, a business owner in the seaside resort of Playa del Carmen, said, “We offer sun and sand, nothing else. That is what we’re selling. And right now we’re fooling our tourists.”
Their anger increased this week when President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador visited the coast and downplayed the seriousness of the problem. He recently said he would not contract out the work of cleaning up sargassum — or gathering it before it reaches shore — but will put the Mexican Navy in charge of building collector boats and cleaning the sea.
“I haven’t talked much about this, because I don’t see it as a very serious issue, as some claim it is,” Lopez Obrador said. “No, no, we’re going to solve it.”
Sargassum is not just a problem for Mexico; it affects, to a greater or lesser degree, all the islands in the Caribbean.
“We are seeing a major impact on our countries, economically, socially,” said June Soomer, the general secretary of the Association of Caribbean States, noting massive arrivals of seaweed “are now considered national emergencies” in some Caribbean counties like Barbados.


Malaysia welcomes its first durian-friendly hotel

An overview of the Durian Research Center. (AN photo)
Updated 52 min 12 sec ago
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Malaysia welcomes its first durian-friendly hotel

  • Tan sees the resort’s agritourism ecosystem as a long-term goal toward creating a platform for durian research and cultivation

KUALA LUMPUR: Durians are known for their distinct, pungent smell, which many foreigners describe as a combination of rotten onions and old socks. As such, most hotels in Asia forbid the fruit on their premises.
But with the rising popularity of durians among locals and foreign tourists, Malaysia is welcoming its first durian-friendly hotel and resort.
Situated an hour from Kuala Lumpur’s city center, the beautiful, scenic Bangi Golf Resort includes a hotel overlooking a golf course, and an agriculture farm.
“When you first go into any hotels, you usually see the signs ‘durian is not allowed’ or ‘durian is forbidden’,” said Tan Ban Keat, director of the resort. “We soften the tone for the hotel to be ‘durians are allowed in durian-friendly zones’.”
Hotel patrons can buy, eat and bring durians to designated zones throughout the resort.
“We’re actually the first hotel to practice that,” said Tan, adding that he does not believe the move will prompt other hotels in Malaysia to follow suit.
“It doesn’t do anything to their business. We do it because we grow durians on the premises. We have the annual durian festival … and we’ll include the Durian Research Center in the near future,” he said.

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Musang Kings are considered premium durians due to their intense yet well-balanced, custardy sweet taste. They are the premier durians for export to China and other overseas markets.

Tan expressed his hope that the center, which is under construction, will become a premier research hub for better durian breeds.
“I hope to create a Super Musang King,” he said. Musang Kings are considered premium durians due to their intense yet well-balanced, custardy sweet taste. They are the premier durians for export to China and other overseas markets.
Tan sees the resort’s agritourism ecosystem as a long-term goal toward creating a platform for durian research and cultivation.
“These durian-friendly zones are created to be a platform for agriculture. Durians have a place in many people’s hearts. They’re a national treasure,” he added.