Today I am going to share a couple of news stories that are pertinent for a lot of you blog readers and the people of Costa Maya and Mahahual. The first article is about a big meeting the Mexican government had here to discuss the big problem of all the Sargasso seaweed currently covering the beaches of Quintana Roo.
The second article is a story about how scientists have discovered that a lot of sea turtles in Quintana Roo are getting cancer, and what may be causing it. In the near future I will writing an article about the new sea turtle hatchery that has been set up in Mahahual.
Experts and Officials in Quintana Roo Analyze Unusual Accumulation of Seaweed
Quintana Roo Governor Roberto Borge Angulo instructed the State Environment Secretariat (Sema) to attend a meeting to analyze the unusual situation of the recent accumulation of seaweed. Also present at the meeting were representatives from the federal government, the Natural Resources and Environment Secretariat (Semarnat) and the Navy Secretariat (Semar), as well as academic and investigation institutions.
The discussion was led by sea captain Carlos Ortega Guerra, head of the Civil Protection and Contingency Section of the Navy Chief of Staff of Mexico. Quintana Roo Semarnat representative José Luis Funes Izaguirre and Sema head Rafael Muñoz Berzunza also attended the meeting.
The scientific-technical group said the strategy to remove the seaweed will continue along the lines already established by Semarnat. The process will be coordinated by both the state government and Semarnat, explained Muñoz Berzunza.
Experts and officials from several agencies in Quintana Roo met to analyze the unusual accumulation of seaweed. (Photo: SPECIAL TO THE NEWS)
Funes Izaguirre specified that they will continue to record the methods used to collect and dispose of the seaweed in order to have a clear, step-by-step log of the process. All the information can then be taken and analyzed as a whole to make an informed choice as to how to proceed, said the Quintana Roo Semarnat representative.
The technical procedures for containment, treatment, transport and disposal of seaweed in all coastal areas were also outlined.
The National Committee on Protected National Areas (Conanp), the Ecological Center of Akumal (CEA) and the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) will be the authorities responsible for evaluating seaweed containment and removal projects in Puerto Morelos, Cancún, Akumal and Tulum (and what about other beach destinations such as Mahahual?)
Essentially, this task force will propose pilot projects for seaweed management, as well as keeping a detailed log of all the collected information.
A number of other officials attended the meeting, including Captain Gildardo Alarcón Daus, Assistant Director of the Naval Protection Agency.
Increasing Number of Cancerous Sea Turtles in Mexico
Specifically, the leatherback and hawksbill sea turtles are of great concern to marine biologists who have found that sea turtles nesting along the Yucatan Peninsula have higher cancer rates than the sea turtles nesting in Baja California.
Dr. Maria Monica Lara Uc, a researcher at the Autonomous University of Baja California Sur and Health Program in charge of Sea Turtles of the Academic Department of Marine Sciences, brings to light the health concerns of these marine turtles.
She said she is concerned that since 2006, an increasing number of sea turtles in Mexico have been found with Fibropapillomatosis (FP) – a debilitating disease that affects sea turtles, causing the growth of bulbous tumors on soft tissue.
According to The Wildlife Society, “the viral disease affects marine turtles around the globe. Large tumors can impact turtles’ ability to see, swim, and eat…the tumors of FP are essentially a form of cancer.”
Marine researchers continue to study the cause of the increase of FP and have not released any specific figures, however,according to NOAA FP exists all over the world but it is most prominent in warmer climates affecting up to 50 to 70 percent of some sea turtle populations.
The cause for the increase in FP cases in marine turtles along the Yucatan Peninsula has not yet been determined. Dr. Lara adds that even though US specialists have a very advanced research health center, they have not been able to establish the source of the disease.
“We know it’s a virus but we cannot determine why FP continues to spread and grow, so we don’t know why turtles are getting cancer,” she said.
The first cases of FP were found in green sea turtles, but the monitoring of marine turtles has shown several other species to be infected with the disease, namely loggerhead, olive ridley, kemp’s ridley and leatherbacks.
Dr. Lara points out that when they take into account the other (human) factors that endanger sea turtles, in addition to disease, some of the species could disappear over the next 20 years if action is not taken.
Thanks for reading,
Stewart Rogers USA-South Carolina