Large quantities of sargassum, a type of brown seaweed, began washing ashore this week on the coast of the resort town of Tulum, in what experts say is just the start of a new deluge of this floating algae in Mexico's southeastern Caribbean region.
Hydrobiologist Esteban Amaro, technical director of the Sargassum Monitoring Network, told EFE that a massive seaweed bloom was located thanks to satellite imagery from the Optical Oceanography Laboratory of the University of South Florida, located in the southeastern United States.
On Thursday, sargassum was more than plentiful on the central coast of Quintana Roo, although its presence has already been reported throughout the coastline of that state on the eastern part of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula.
"So far there's little in Cancun, but in Puerto Morelos and further down - the Riviera Maya and even Mahahual - the presence of sargassum is much more notable," Amaro said.
Forecasts suggest that the highest concentrations of sargassum will arrive on Friday and Saturday, coinciding with the last weekend of the current vacation season.
On the coast of Tulum, a resort town that is home to a walled Mayan archaeological site, large quantities of sargassum were visible on the sandbanks and on an extensive offshore strip of land that has been stained with an ochre color.
In some offshore areas, the sargassum stain covers a little more than 300 square meters, while in others it exceeds more than 400 sq m.
Hotel workers say ocean waves drag the sargassum to the coast overnight and that their cleaning efforts cannot keep up with the constant arrival of more seaweed.
Sargassum has been arriving consistently but in smaller quantities since last year's deluge - reportedly the worst on record - ended in the summer. But the height of the new seaweed season is now beginning once again.
According to authorities in the municipality of Solidaridad, where the popular tourist resort of Playa del Carmen is located, more than 200 tons of sargassum were collected on Thursday from public beaches such as El Recodo and other spots frequented by tourists and locals.
The east and northeast winds that blow near the coast of Quintana Roo favor the accumulation of the sargassum, pushing the seaweed toward the coasts and making it even more difficult to control.
Some hotels in the Riviera Maya tourism and resort district have placed netting devices to contain the sargassum in the water and prevent it from reaching the beaches.
Boats also are sent to collect the seaweed as part of private-sector efforts to solve the problem and lower costs.