Barrier - Recommended Solution
A seasonally installed sargasso barrier comes at a relatively high up-front cost but a much lower overall cost of ownership when compared to manual beach removal, mechanical removal or boats.
A properly designed sargassum barrier** keeps seaweed (as well as floating trash and debris) far away from reefs, beaches, swimming areas and turtle nesting zones. With a net-style sargassum barrier in place, the water remains relatively clear and the beaches remain pristine, without the constant activity, stench and beach erosion that comes from manual sargassum removal.
Investing in a sargassum barrier will benefit the environment and decrease the amount of sargassum that reaches our beach by 80% or more (depending on weather). It will also significantly reduce the cost of manually removing sargassum from the beach, which cost approximately $340,000 USD in 2019.
The installation of a commercially proven, environmentally sound sargassum barrier is the unanimous recommendation of the HMB Sargasso Project team but it represents a significant investment that requires careful planning and implementation in two distinct phases, as detailed below.
** This page explains the difference between a true sargassum barrier and the "oil-boom" barrier that's installed in Akumal Bay.
And this chart compares the effectiveness of barriers versus manual beach removal.
The first phase of our project is the design, manufacture and installation of a new sargassum barrier as outlined on this website. The subsequent operation and maintenance of the barrier has been organized as a second, separate phase of the project and will not be paid for with funds raised thru this website.
PHASE 1 - MANUFACTURE & INSTALLATION
Fundraising for the installation of a sargassum barrier is being managed by the Yucatan Environmental Fund (YEF) as a non-profit environmental venture so that all donations may be counted as tax-deductible contributions in the US and Mexico. We aimed to raise 70% of the required Phase 1 funding from property owners in the High Impact Zone (HIZ) along the southern and central beachfront. The remaining 30% has come from friends, local businesses and other property owners in North Akumal who care about the viability of our marine environment, our pristine beaches and local tourism. The Phase 1 budget includes $100,000 USD in contingency funds needed to GUARANTEE an immediate resolution to any unexpected issues that might harm turtle hatchlings or cause excess sargassum to accumulate along the headlands south of the barrier.
The purchase of a barrier only went forward when we had 100% of the required barrier funding in hand. But we continue to seek additional funds for our "Sustainable Financing" plan that guarantees we will monitor and mitigate any unintended environmental impacts that might result from installing the barrier infrastructure.
Our initial goal was to complete the Installation Phase of the project before the start of the 2022 Sargassum Season but the pandemic created bureaucratic delays at SEMARNAT, the Mexican Secretariat of the Environment & Natural Resources that must approve projects like this. SEMARNAT finally gave the green light for the project on 6/4/22 so we are now aiming for manufacture and installation early in the 2023 Sargassum Season.
PHASE 2 - ONGOING MAINTENANCE
Once we've worked with YEF to raise sufficient funds to cover the entire Phase 1 budget, this website will be shut down and project management will be taken over by a Mexican non-profit, EcoProteccion Akumal (EPA). EPA will contract with the barrier manufacturer, Okeanis, and, separately, a local project manager who will keep the barrier in operation during the sargassum season and in storage during the winter months.
Property owners in the HIZ will be invoiced by EPA for ongoing maintenance expenses just as they are currently invoiced for the cost of manual beach removal. As detailed here, EPA projects that this maintenance expense will be significantly less than the annual cost for manual beach removal. For example the beach removal expenses incurred in 2019 were $340,000 USD while barrier maintenance is expected to run less than $100,000/year.
Phase 1 Budget
The HMB Sargassum Project originally established an ambitious fundraising goal of $600,000 for the purchase and installation of a commercially proven sargassum barrier. After consulting with a variety of engineers and marine scientists and after negotiating with a variety of barrier manufacturers, we’ve been able to streamline our budget down to $475,000. Yes, our goal remains high but it’s an amount that offers compelling ROI because it protects BOTH our tourist economy AND our fragile marine ecosystem.
We aim to collect 70% of this budgeted amount from residential property owners in the HIZ. But to reach our goal we need the participation of EVERY stakeholder in North Akumal who would benefit from making Half Moon Bay a “Sargassum Free Zone” — including YOU!!
$375,000 Design and installation of barrier. (was $475,000)
$25,000 Administrative & logistical expenses in managing initial contract, collection
& dispersal of funds, etc. as well as fees to various government agencies
$50,000 Contingency Fund to cover to cost of mitigating unexpected environmental impacts,
especially as related to protecting turtle hatchlings or to cover the cost of removing
any excess sargassum that might UNEXPECTEDLY accumulate on the southern
Total Budget: $475,000 (was $600,000)
As you can see, the installation budget includes two generous “contingency funds” to ensure that we will not need to come back to the community for a second round of funding even if we incur unexpected costs for transporting turtle hatchlings or removing accumulated sargassum from the southern headlands, etc. We believe it is important to provide our neighbors outside the barrier with a guaranteed method of disposing of excess sargassum that might accumulate near their properties on the headlands.
NOTE: Tax deductible donations made on this website WILL NOT be used to cover post-installation maintenance expenses. These costs are budgeted in a separate spreadsheet because they will be invoiced only to property owners in the HIZ .
The Executive team of the HMB Sargassum Project invested 18 months in studying and specifying the technical requirements of a successful barrier installation. We began by conducting a survey of the entire seafloor of Half Moon Bay. Survey results confirm that the rocky sea bottom is well suited to the installation of secure pin type anchors that are epoxied into the rock, and suggest that the barrier should be installed OUTSIDE the reef. Unlike the long sandy beaches in Tulum, there is an easy point of closure on the southern headlands while on the northern end of the bay we can rely on the documented wave action and currents behind the reef (together with a slightly angled anchoring system) to create a natural barrier that provides full protection from sargassum while significantly reducing wear and tear. As shown in the images below, a barrier design that exploits the natural "barrier" around the reef at the northern end of the bay, also allows safe passage to open waters for turtle hatchlings and boats.
Another study of prevailing winds indicates that the barrier will usually divert seaweed back out to sea or onto the southern headlands. Seaweed that does not flow back out to sea will usually get “churned and disintegrated” from the wave action on the rocky shore but if excess sargassum UNEXPECTEDLY starts to accumulate on the southern headlands, the budget includes funding for temporary wooden walkways that allow teams of workers to use wheelbarrows for ongoing manual cleanup through Bush Park. If property owners along the headlands find this manual cleanup effort insufficient we are also open to covering the cost of a zipline or conveyor belt that can be temporarily installed in Bush Park. (A commitment to remove sargassum that might accumulate on the southern headlands does add cost to our budget but is CRITICAL to protecting neighbors with shore-front property along the headlands.)
Additional issues considered by the executive committee while evaluating barrier specs from different providers included:
Maximum wind speeds
Maximum sea currents
Maximum wave/swell heights also if rolling or breaking
Whether the perimeter layout has good deflection angles
Anchoring appropriate to our rocky sea bottom and able to withstand the forces during high wind conditions.
Maintaining proper, protective distance from coral reefs
Efficient barrier deployment, removal
Provider assistance with regulatory and permit requirements
Full service option and track record for operating and maintaining the barrier
For more details on the Barrier specifications see the Barrier Providers section below.
After determining in 2020 that a mesh-style sargassum barrier would provide more environmentally sound and cost effective seaweed mitigation than other commercially available solutions, the HMB Sargassum Project began reaching out to all barrier manufacturers with a presence in Mexico. By the spring of 2021, the committee narrowed the manufacturers under consideration down to two candidates, both of whom specialized in anchored, mesh type barriers. Both manufacturers had a commercially proven track record in the installation of barriers for the containment and diversion of floating trash and algae. (NOTE: There are many different types of barriers on the market. Most of the “floating booms” installed on neighboring beaches were designed to contain oil spills, not control sargassum, which is why so many locally installed barriers have proven to be ineffective.)
Here is information on the top two contenders we were considering:
In December 2021, after extended negotiations with both providers, the Sargassum Committee selected Okeanis for the design, manufacture and installation of a barrier that best meets our technical specifications. We also engaged in independent negotiations with their local representative, Inmar, to provide ongoing maintenance services once the barrier is fully installed. Contracts with each of these companies have been finalized but will not actually be signed until the we've raised the full amount needed to cover the project budget. We are aiming to sign by August 15, 2022 to allow six months for the manufacture, shipping and customs processing, etc.
The HMB Sargassum Project will follow the steps below in completing the design, purchase and installation of a sargassum barrier. As of June 2022, we are transitioning to Step III with the backing of a galvanized community that has pledged nearly $400,000 in support of a barrier!
Step I Gauge community support for the proposed project by seeking pledges
of financial support for the installation of a sargassum barrier
Step II As soon as pledges reach a threshold of $350,000:
- finalize the technical design of the barrier and select a preferred provider
- seek project approval from SEMARNAT
- finalize an agreement with the Yucatan Environmental Fund (YEF), a US non-profit Corporation that can collect tax deductible donations and fund EPA.
- establish a Mexican Corporation called EcoProteccion Akumal (EPA)
to manage and sign contracts for the project
Step III Once the project is approved by SEMARNAT, provide donors
with an easy and secure way to convert their pledges to financial contributions
to YEF along with a “GoFundMe” type guarantee that:
- Donations are fully refundable if sufficient funds are not raised to complete the project
- US and Mexican donors may take a charitable tax deduction on their donations.
Step IV If sufficient funds have been donated by August 15, 2022 :
- Finalize the agreed upon manufacturing contract between EPA and Okeanis and
- Transfer of funds from YEF to EPA so Mexican non-profit can begin
contracting and project management
Step V While the barrier is being manufactured, prepare for the transition
to Phase 2 by entering into a separate contract with Inmar for ongoing operations
and maintenance of the barrier based on these expense projections.
(NOTE: This website will not being used to raise funds for Phase 2 of the project.
Invoices from Inmar will, instead, be forwarded by EPA to property owners in the HIZ )