EFECancun, Mexico

The Mexican government has increased to 150 million pesos ($9.2 million) the funds earmarked to deal with an unusual massive influx of seaweed on the beaches here and in other parts of the southeastern state of Quintana Roo.

Environment Secretary Juan Jose Guerra Abud told a press conference in Cancun that 90 million pesos ($5.5 million) will be used exclusively for the Temporary Employment Program and the purchase of items needed for algae removal.

Additional funds will pay for the processing and disposal of the seaweed according to recommendations from a multi-disciplinary team of experts.

At the same press conference, Tourism Secretary Claudia Ruiz Massieu announced the launch of a campaign to educate tourists and locals about the seaweed and steps being taken to clean up the beaches.

Ruiz Massieu said the outreach efforts include information packets sent to tour operators and travel agents in the countries that account for the majority of foreign visitors to Mexico.

The main goal of the campaign, she said, is to inform the public that the seaweed invasion is a natural phenomenon affecting the entire Caribbean and that authorities in Mexico are dealing with the problem.

Guerra said that more than 4,600 people have enrolled in temporary work teams established in the seven most affected coastal municipalities in Quintana Roo to bolster existing efforts involving hundreds of volunteers, hotel, restaurant and marina employees and even army troops.

Guerra and Ruiz Massieu visited Cancun last week to announce the plan for the clean-up, though they said then that the budget for the program would be 12 million pesos ($737,100).

The unusual arrival of big masses of seaweed on Caribbean beaches may be caused by higher nutrient levels in the ocean, climate change and changing weather patterns, scientists said.