So you’re thinking about a trip to the amazing country of Belize, but have heard of the seaweed problem on some of the beaches?
Well you’re in luck; having spent 10 days in Belize in June 2022, here is some first hand information, as well as the current research on the issue.
Seaweed, also known as sargassum, has been a problem throughout the Caribbean since 2015.
Sargassum is a brown seaweed filled with oxygen which makes it buoyant and it clumps together in huge masses and then washes up on the beach. With rising ocean temperatures, the seaweed problem has escalated to where it is today in 2022.
So you might be thinking, what’s the problem with a little seaweed on the beach?
Well, first of all the smell. It is like a sulfuric rotten egg and stinks terribly. The other issue is that in some areas of the Caribbean, it can cover miles of the beach, which frankly can ruin a tropical vacation if you are expecting white sandy beaches.
Sargassum seaweed mostly affects the eastern side of land masses, which since Belize is in the Western Caribbean, it can be bad on the mainland. If you visit some of the islands of Belize, you will find some seaweed on the east side of the island and not a strand on the west side.
Also, the seaweed tends to appear more in the summer months and subsides in the winter when the oceans are cooler.
Belize Seaweed Problem 2022
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Does Belize have a sargassum seaweed problem in 2022?
In some areas, yes, most definitely. But Belize is a big country and the problem tends to be bad in some places, but not so bad in others. According to the National Meteorological Service, in March 2022, there was an observable increase in seaweed near Belize, with high concentrations in the southern part of the country.
What is the current seaweed condition in Belize?
The current seaweed conditions in Belize depend on which part you are visiting.
The Southern region, which includes Hopkins and Placencia has been hit hard, yet other areas have not.
Ambergris Caye, which is one of the most popular tourist destinations with the quaint town of San Pedro has a moderate seaweed problem on the east side of the island, but the west side of the island is free of seaweed.
Caye Caulker which is south of Ambergris Caye didn’t seem to have as intense of an issue with seaweed like San Pedro had. There was a little bit of seaweed on the east side of the island south of The Split, but there was no smell and the beach was definitely still enjoyable to walk.
What regions of Belize are not affected by seaweed problem?
The good news on the current seaweed condition in Belize is that there are still some areas that haven’t been affected.
In fact, at Secret Beach, which is a short golf cart ride from San Pedro and located on the west side, there was no seaweed to be found. The area around Secret Beach remains the picture perfect tropical paradise with pristine white sand and clear turquoise water.
|Place\ Accommodation types🏨||Budget||Mid-range||Luxury|
|West Ambergris Caye||Drift Inn San Pedro||Ramon’s Village Resort||Pelican Reef Villas Resort|
|Caye Caulker||Caye Caulker Condos||Colinda Cabanas||Island Magic Beach Resort|
The best thing to do when considering a trip to Belize is to find a live camera feed so that you can see for yourself what the condition is before booking a trip.
You can also visit sargassummonitoring.com, a website that monitors current seaweed conditions on all Caribbean beaches.
Another positive is that the seaweed mainly collects on the beach, so if you are into ocean sports such as snorkeling and scuba diving, you can take a boat trip a little off shore and enjoy clear visibility and amazing reefs and marine life.
Seaweed forecast for the year 2022 in Belize
According to the National Meteorological Service of Belize, there is a medium to high chance of more Sargassum polluting the beaches in 2022.
The Optical Oceanography Laboratory of the University of South Florida, has been monitoring the situation and has seen an increase of more than 100% of sargassum throughout the Caribbean in the last 6 months and if conditions remain as predicted for the rest of 2022, the biomass can double in as little as 20 days.
But do not fret or cancel your Belizean vacation plans just yet, there is hope as seaweed season is quite infrequent and unpredictable, there are days when you won’t encounter any seaweed at all.
What is being done by the Belize government or local authorities to tackle the seaweed problem?
The government of Belize has teamed up with local hoteliers and local islanders to create a task force to combat the problem.
What many are doing in tourist areas such as San Pedro is develop a team of workers with rakes, wheelbarrows and ATVs to collect the seaweed out of the water and beaches.
The seaweed is then taken away by dump trucks and brought to landfill areas.
Unfortunately, the constant digging and bulldozing is causing the sand to erode and so new sand has to be trucked in. Having witnessed this firsthand, the whole process takes a lot of hard work and is a nasty job with the smell and the Caribbean heat.
Some resorts employ up to 30 people a day to deal with the issue.
Recently a team of experts from the Ministry of Sustainable Development; the Ministry of Tourism and the Blue Economy took a trip to Mexico to see how their northern neighbors have been handling the issue.
The more permanent solution appears to be to collect the seaweed before it hits the shore and is considering installing barriers in the ocean. From there, boats can collect the sargassum from the sea and place it on barges.
Belize is unique in that it has a barrier reef just offshore that the sargassum must cross to enter land. The reef has channels that slow down the seaweed and the government is currently exploring the possibility of capturing the sargassum in those channels.
And sargassum isn’t all bad. It contains rich nutrients that sustain life for many marine life and there is a lot of research on how to use this natural resource on land.
Some businesses are turning the seaweed into animal feed, building materials and bioplastics. Others are using the homeopathic benefits for items like lotions and hair products, as well as shakes and jellies.
Plus, there is ongoing research on how to use sargassum to produce methane for energy.
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