The Seaweed in Punta Cana Problem,(2022) Alternative Solutions

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Seaweed is not garbage or pollution, but the large amounts that reach the Caribbean coast, and are projected to continue arriving this and the next few years, represent an economic and environmental problem for countries such as the Dominican Republic that are affected by their invasion.

The avalanche of these algae, which according to scientific studies are pushed to the Caribbean coast due to climate change, causes complaints among tourists who visit Dominican destinations attracted by the supply of sun and beach, but also pollute the waters, and can affect both humans and marine ecosystems.


Topic summary

This topic is a long research work, it has a lot of information about seaweed both in Punta Cana and in the whole Dominican Republic.

If you need more accurate and concise information, here is a summary of the topic:

  • The months with the highest incidence of seaweed in Punta Cana are March, April, May, and June, these months are considered to be the hottest in the country.
  • In July and August, the amount of seaweed in Punta Cana starts to decrease a little bit.
  • From September to February, are the months with less incidence of seaweed in Punta Cana, it could be found in some beaches, but in very few quantities.
  • Most hotels clean the beach every day.
  • Do not try to look for specific information on the subject, that is, the seaweed situation may vary from one day to another in a hotel.

In the Dominican Republic, there are many other beaches where the seaweed never arrives or arrives in a very reduced form, which is practically not noticeable.


 

Is There Too Much Seaweed in Punta Cana?

The amount of seaweed accumulated on the beaches of Punta Cana can vary day by day and month after month, The hotels have adapted to the task of cleaning the beach every day, in subsequent years, the months of March, April, and May have been those with the highest negative incidence, in February there has been a decrease in accumulation, The hotels have adapted to the task of cleaning the beach every day, some resort has installed a net to catch the seaweed.

Some areas are more affected than others but it is impossible to predict and can change quickly, It cannot be said that the problem of seaweed is seasonal, but there is a notable increase in relation to past years.

You can follow the social networks of the hotels to see updated photos of the beaches before making your trip, don’t let it affect your trip. At the end of this topic, you will find some live webcams of the beaches in Punta Cana, so you can verify in real-time the status of some beaches.

Do all beaches in Punta Cana have seaweed?

Generally, when there is a lot of seaweed, it touches all the beaches and hotels in the area of Punta Cana, in the summer months when the waters are warmer there is usually more concentration of seaweed on all the beaches, obviously, the concentration of seaweed is not uniform throughout the coast of Punta Cana.

There are sections of beach that can be more affected than others, the only constant is that all the hotels have a staff dedicated to cleaning the coast during the days of an abundance of seaweed.

Seaweed barrier in Punta Cana and Bavaro


Photo: Algeanova.com

Of 31 kilometers of beach area in the hotels of Bávaro, there is a barrier of 12.7 kilometers, equivalent to a coverage of 40%. To be more specific, it indicates that 95% of the area of Punta Cana-Cap Cana is protected with anti-seize barriers, in Cabeza de Toro 48%, Bavaro 17% and Uvero Alto 0%.

There are zones In Bavaro where these are not effective if breakwaters are not installed before because the coral reef is devastated and this causes the waters to run harder.

Where there are no barriers, hoteliers collect seaweed mechanically, which can impact the environment by taking sand in the process.

Anti-seize barriers are the option that the country must continue to apply, although in other places they have not been as successful and the seaweed kept are not visually attractive.


Photo: Ministry of Environment

Which months are the most likely to produce seaweed in Punta Cana?

Because seaweed has been found to reproduce more in hot weather, the months where they are most likely to be found on some beaches coincide with the hottest months of the year, although the climate in Punta Cana is relatively warm all year round.

The months from April to October are the hottest months of the year, with August and September being the hottest.

Above 20º C seaweed tend to reproduce more. In addition to this increase in seawater temperatures, many industries release fertilizers into the sea, which are a source of extra food for the algae and cause them to increase in size and extension at an alarming rate.

Changes in wind patterns and sea currents are also being altered and, if you add them to a greater quantity of algae, there is a massive dragging and accumulation on the shores, leading to a serious environmental problem.

Which months are there no seaweed in Punta Cana?

According to some information I gathered from some locals and visitors, as well as from workers in the hotel zone of Punta Cana since mid-September the incidence of seaweed usually decreases, and especially in the month of December, there is usually no seaweed on the beaches.

This information coincides with the fact that the months from September to January are the season with less hot weather in the Dominican Republic.

In addition, according to NASA satellite photographs, the extension of seaweed that travels towards the Caribbean coasts year after year occurs in the first months of the year.

Where does all the seaweed in Punta Cana come from?

This is not the first time this phenomenon has occurred in the Caribbean or in the Dominican Republic. A similar seaweed bloom occurred in 2011, and also in 2014.

Although specialists studying the phenomenon do not have answers for everything, they have been able to determine that the seaweed do NOT come from the Sargasso Sea (northwest Atlantic), as initially thought.

The likely origin is further south, in one or more areas of the equatorial Atlantic (between Africa and South America), where current patterns are known to have varied.

This is probably due to higher sea surface temperatures, as well as a decrease in winds. All of this is being linked to the phenomenon of global climate change.

Apparently, the bloom of these algae has been favored by an abundance of nutrients deposited by a large amount of dust from the Sahara that has been reaching the Dominican Republic lately.

Do all the beaches in the Dominican Republic have seaweed?

Although seaweed accumulation is a phenomenon that has no predictable pattern, there are parts of the country where seaweed accumulation on beaches is infrequent.

This is my perception, as I frequently visit the beaches in the northern part of the country, and I have never actually seen seaweed accumulating on the shores.

An example of this, the beaches of Bayahibe, which are located less than an hour from Punta Cana, are always free of seaweed.

Bayahibe is also located in the east of the country, just like Punta Cana, but with the difference that Bayahibe is located further south.

The beaches of Puerto Plata, which are located much further north than Punta Cana, are also always free of seaweed.

Public beaches in the northern part of the Dominican Republic, are kept quite clean of seaweed.

This reinforces the concept of seaweed coming from the southeast.

Can you have direct contact with seaweed, is it dangerous?

Although seaweed is generally harmless (the seaweed itself is non-toxic), seaweed collects epiphytes (small plants and animals that attach to and grow on the leaves of seaweed) as it floats in the ocean and many of these can cause a slight stinging sensation to people with very sensitive skin.

Seaweed does not irritate the skin, it is an alga that does not have something urticant, it is a biological fact. But this seaweed may have some tiny animals called hydrozoans that can cause an itching sensation.

For people with very sensitive skin, medical experts and biologists advise against direct contact, as it can cause various skin problems such as dermatitis.

Facing the problem of Seaweed in Punta Cana

Faced with the challenge of facing its massive arrival, barriers in the region have been installed and tests have been carried out to recycle the sargassum with multiple purposes such as fertilizers, chemical compounds, biofuels or biogas, including clothing and footwear.

However, more studies and public-private initiatives are needed to overcome the uncertain availability of sargassum and the properties of this seaweed whose impact in the country has motivated meetings between hotel entrepreneurs and President Danilo Medina in the National Palace.

A hotel in the tourist area of Punta Cana, temporarily lost its Blue Flag category and Red Flag was placed due to the amount of seaweed on the beach. They always clean the beach, but they had a disproportionate avalanche of their ability to respond and the seaweed accumulated.

The Blue Flag is an international recognition granted by the Foundation for Environmental Education to facilities that have demanding environmental quality standards. The Red category is placed when these criteria are not met and the visitor makes use of the beach at his own risk.

Possible alternative solutions to face the seaweed problem in the Dominican Republic

Since 2015, the Ministry of Environment called for proposals on use of sargassum. Otto Cordero, in charge of Integrated Ecosystem Management of that institution, shows that several projects arrived. 80% propose using algae as fertilizer; Another is to convert it into biogas.

Faced with the proposals to fertilize with sargassum, scientific warnings are placed on salinization of the soils, because of the number of metals and salts it contains. Just in 2015, the Laboratory of the General Directorate of Customs conducted a prospective study on the chemical composition of sargassum that arrives in the country.

They sampled the two known varieties: Sargassum natans and Sargassum fluitans on beaches of Boca Chica, Guayacanes and Barahona.

They found that both varieties contain “slightly elevated levels of Hg (mercury), which could limit the use of biomass.” They also found the content of Ascanio, yttrium and 14 lanthanides, known as rare earth, at higher levels than in the oceans. “Every year we do onsite evaluations to verify the Blue Flag beaches.

In one of the visits we made to a beach in Cabeza de Toro it was observed that there was a large accumulation of sargassum and, although we did not take it into account for certification, because it is not garbage, there was a strong stench that felt from the entrance, ”says Daniela Cifontes, one of the Blue Flag technicians in the country.

Another proposed use for sargassum is to convert it into activated carbon that is used in the water filtration industry. A study led by Intec researcher Yolanda León, resulted in high-quality activated carbon.

In the Dominican Republic, there is a research project of the Algeanova company that has already reached an agreement with the biotechnology company Grogenics, from Canada.

They have designed a formula for a compound that will be 60% algae and 40% tree pruning to produce fertilizer. Algeanova made the first test of sargassum transformation on June 5 and publicized it on their social networks.

Transforming seaweed into disposable plates

Algeanova is a company based in the Dominican Republic that provides the services of maritime cleaning and placement of barriers, to transform these algae, Algeanova has more than one project.

For about three years, they thought of turning sargassum into disposable containers, they have the machinery to produce about 2,000 dishes a day.

Seaweed will not be a problem for beaches in the Dominican Republic

Tourism is one of the main economic sources of the Dominican Republic, therefore efforts are being made to optimize and promote high-level tourism in the country.

It is very good news to know that the President of the Dominican Republic, together with public organizations, has created the “fund for the mitigation of seaweed”.

Already 2.8 million dollars have been allocated for the construction of seaweed barriers and another 1.5 million dollars for the regeneration of the beaches.

This plan will initially cover 35 beaches, in the most important tourist areas of the country.

Punta Cana live webcam

Most resorts and hotels in Punta Cana have live cameras overlooking the beach, here I will be sharing live cameras. Some videos are updated every 20 seconds, I will be bringing the live cameras I find, if any of the links do not work I would appreciate it if you would let me know by message.

Hard Rock Punta Cana live web cam.

Palladium TRS Turquesa live web cam

Punta Cana Cortecito beach

Bávaro Cortecito beach

Another option to see the beaches of Punta Cana in real-time

I recently discovered another very cool option to see the beaches and surroundings of Punta Cana in real view and in high definition.

Well, the real-time view is not exactly real-time, because that option is only available for military use, but the satellite views are refreshed every 48 or 72 hours, and they are so sharp that you can see the shores of the beaches clearly.

Here is the link to the website where you can see the beaches of Punta Cana in satellite view.

Satellite view of Punta Cana beaches

8 Comments

  1. Elvis Alcequiez says:

    So, I have opened the comments section of the website, because I know it will be very helpful.

    I don’t want to “shoot myself in the foot” with what I am going to say, but I am receiving many photos and videos almost daily of the seaweed situation on different beaches in Punta Cana.

    Many beaches are in good condition, the problem is that the situation can change constantly…

    I’ve been thinking of a way to create a separate section to upload those photos and videos, but I am giving it a lot of thought as it is an activity that requires a lot of time.

  2. Christina Mills says:

    thanks for your post as it is super helpful!

  3. Elvis Alcequiez says:

    Hi Christina, thanks for your comment, it’s a pleasure.

  4. Thank you so much 🙂
    I had a lot of questions answered thanks to your post.
    How long does the barriers exist? Sounds like it could cause a huge ecological imbalance 🤷🏽‍♀️

    1. Elvis Alcequiez says:

      Hi Adva, It’s a pleasure
      It is worse what they are currently doing in some hotels, cleaning the seaweed from the sand on the beach, that over time can cause a lot of erosion.

      But currently, millions of dollars are being allocated by the Dominican government to try to mitigate the problem in the Punta Cana area in relation to the seaweed, let’s see what solutions will be implemented.

      I should add an additional tip that I recently discovered

      Beaches with a lot of sandy areas and strong tides are less susceptible to seaweed accumulation because they “clean themselves”.

      The tides push the seaweed far enough away from the shore of the beach and a large strip of clean sand can be left, a case in point is the Macao beach, which encompasses the hard rock Punta Cana hotel and others.

      This beach has a lot of wave movement and a large strip of sand.

      1. Yes, you are totally right. Cleaning the beaches is another bad solution.
        I truly hope that the best solution will be discovered soon 🙂
        Thanks for the tip!

  5. Marianita J Parraga says:

    There are no dates. Can you tell me what is the current situation as of September 20th for the Seaweed on Punta Cana Beaches?

    1. Elvis Alcequiez says:

      Hi Marianita, it doesn’t make sense to make a seaweed topic with dates, because the situation can change from one day to the next…

      In the topic, I mentioned that since mid-September the chances of seaweed decrease a lot on the beaches…

      In the topic, I also put some resources so you can see in actual view the conditions of some beaches…

      If you speak Spanish, write to me on the contact page to send you by mail another way to see updated data of the beaches…

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