Cancun, Q. Roo — Sargassum, long choking the Yucatan Peninsula’s Caribbean coast, is a “minor issue,” President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador told reporters Monday.
The smelly, seaweed-like muck has bedeviled the tourism industry in recent years, as disappointed tourists are deprived of the beautiful beaches they were promised. Tourism is key to the Mexican economy.
It is also an environmental risk, endangering sea life, including nesting sea turtles.
But the president called the region a “paradise,” shrugging off several reporters who aggressively pressed him on the crisis.
“The seaweed is a minor issue,” Lopez Obrador said, adding that he is not worried about the seaweed causing major damage to the tourist-dependent economies.
Gov. Carlos Joaquin also played down the seaweed’s impact on the hospitality industry.
Navy Chief Rafael Ojeda said some 1,000 kilometers / 621 miles of beaches have been affected by the scourge. The government is crafting a plan to address it, he said.
The government will budget 52 million pesos / US$2.7 million in public money to build four boats specially designed to remove seaweed, in addition to new sargassum barriers.
Lopez Obrador pledged “all the resources that are needed” to address the crisis.
In May, Moody’s flagged the seaweed risk to Mexico’s tourism sector and called on the government to intensify efforts to protect affected beaches.