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Project Updates

EcoProteccion Akumal (EPA), the Mexican non-profit established to handle barrier contracting and project management, deployed a sargassum barrier outside the reef in Half Moon Bay in May 2023 but, as detailed below, there is still alot of work ongoing.  
 

Barrier  Status

Project Announcements
Daily activity log:  Tasks undertaken by EPA crew under the direction of Project Manager Ivan Penie

Photos

2024 Season (w/out barrier)

Anchor Points: under water documentation
Effectiviness Photos:  date/time stamped showing barrier in action

Issues Photos:  details on issues requiring maintenance

Project Timeline

This reverse chronological timeline summarizes completed work in black while pending tasks are highlighted in blue.  (To understand the entire scope of the project, we suggest scrolling down to the entry dated August 2021 and reading up.)

May 2024

  • A new administration at the regional office of PROFEPA indicated plans to lift the temporary injuction (a.k.a. “Clausura”) that prevented EPA from deploying the HMB barrier at the start of the Sargassum Season. They arrived at this decision after reviewing a report from marine scientists dispatched by the Mexican government to dive along barrier infrastructure inspecting for signs of environmental damage.  These scientists reported ZERO EVIDENCE that the barrier would cause environmental harm to the reef in Half Moon Bay or to local populations of nesting turtles as was claimed in legal actions mounted by a few of our neighbors here in Akumal Norte.

  • An article about beach cleaning was drafted for publication in the Vecinos newsletter, La Voz but was pulled at the last minute by 5-3 board vote based on their belief that our sargassum mitigation plan is "too divisive". 
    Comments on the censorship were posted to
    this community forum.


April 2024

  • On 6 separate occasions, ZOFEMAT sent teams of workers to to provide FREE beach cleaning services on the Half Moon Bay beach.  Generous beachfront property owners including Mike & Gayle Dunning and Ira & Sylvia Seret arranged food and drink for the workers.


March 2024

  • EPA reported unexpected legal expenses in excess of MX $190,000 pesos incurred as a result of clandestine legal actions taken against the barrier project by a small group of disgruntled neighbors.

  • The HMB Sargassum Project decided to go public with information about current and past Vecinos board members who are behind the clandestine legal efforts to thwart the barrier project on the basis of false claims of environmental damage to the reef.  (Details can be found in this announcement dated March 24, 2024)

  • The 2024 Sargassum Season began mid-month with the arrival of at least 50 cubic meters of sargassum along the HMB beach.
     

February 2024

  • EPA Project Manager, Ivan Penie, initiated in negotiations with ZOFEMAT to provide regular FREE beach cleaning services along Half Moon Bay as soon as Sargassum Season starts.

  • EPA Legal Counsel, Antonella Vazquez, applied to make public the official report of the Mexican Dept of Justice that states there is ZERO EVIDENCE that the HMB barrier would cause environmental harm to the reef in Half Moon Bay or to local populations of nesting turtles as was claimed in legal actions mounted by a few of our neighbors here in Akumal Norte.

  • EPA began invoicing 15 beachfront properties for 2024 barrier operating costs.
     

January 2024

  • EPA was very belatedly given an ACTA from PROFEPA detailing concerns raised by unspecified "neighbors"
    about possible environmental damage that might be caused by the barrier.  EPA's lawyer immediately responded to each of these unfounded claims in this filing.

  • EPA continued monitoring the Sargassum Watch webpage to determine when to deploy the barrier
    for the 2024 Sargassum Season.

  • The HMB Sargassum Project updated this website with a new page on barrier operating costs
    that details EPA's 2024 budget and lists the beachfront properties that have committed to paying EPA
    for their services in deflecting sargassum away from the federal zone beach.

     

December 2023

  • On the day before Christmas, the Mexican Justice Department sent two expert divers to inspect the barrier anchoring system.  They made a verbal statement to EPA Project Manager, Ivan Penie that they had seen no environmental damage that might have resulted from the anchoring system but, again, no official report on this issue has been shared with EPA.

  • PROFEPA sent 3 inspectors to evaluate the barrier but they arrived when the barrier was in storage and were unable to inspect the under water anchor points because they lacked proper training, equipment and boats.  They posted a "Clausurado" sign on the shoreline in front of Bush Park but failed to comply with Mexican law in issuing a written report explaining WITHIN 5 BUSINESS DAYS why the sign had posted or notifying anyone what they had done.

  • HMB Sargassum Project clarified that EPA is a Mexican non-profit that's authorized to issue tax free invoices for services provided but these services may only be invoiced to other Mexican entities with a valid TaxID (RIF). 
    EPA IS NOT authorized to accept charitable donations from individuals. 

     

November 2023

  • Many supporters participated in an online Q&A about the best way to cover barrier operating expenses in 2024.  This 15 minute video summarizes the issues discussed:
                             
    Q&A Intro

  • .The HMB Sargassum Project issued this announcement about the release of their 2023 Annual Report.

  • EPA Project Manager, Ivan Penie, published a series of scientific papers on important topics related to sargassjum including:

    • How Mounds of Rotting Sargassum Damage the Beach

    • Sargassum Does NOT Become Sand

    • A Report on HMB Barrier Operations
       

October 2023

  • EPA Project Manager, Ivan Penie, urged every resident of Akumal Norte to read the EIMAS sargassum management plan issued by a government working group on which he has served since it's inception.  The HMB Sargassum Project's use of deflection barriers PLUS cleanup of Residual Sargassum aligns exactly with the recommendations in this report.

September 2023

  • The HMB Sargassum Project announced a 2024 training program in best practices for beach cleaning for owners and property managers in the HIZ.  The goal is to ensure the community is better prepared to manage the sargassum that still reaches the beach even when the barrier is meeting the project goal of deflecting 70% of incoming sargassum.

  • HIZ property owners were be given the 2024 "Fairshare Expense" projections.

  • The number of turtle nests recorded on the Half Moon Bay Beach in 2023 exceeded the number of nests recorded in both 2022 and 2021.  Click here for details on this excellent news!
     

August 2023

  • On August 29th, the mailing archive was updated with an announcement that EPA would initiate a full test of barrier removal procedures.

  • ZOFEMAT reached out to Akumal Norte to ask if the community would provide direction (and lunches) for their beach cleaning team.  Because  local property managers and Vecinos board members were unavailable to work with ZOFEMAT, EPA reached out directly to Lol Kana'ab who generously hosted the ZOFEMAT cleaning team for two days.

  • Whether or not the barrier might be preventing turtle hatchlings from safely existing the bay remains an issue of paramount concern.  Throughout the summer, EPA closely monitored statistics published by CEA and stood ready to respond quickly if any issues were identified but, to-date, no issues have been identified.

  • These FAQ were published to address many of the false claims about the barrier that have been posted to the Community Forum on the website hosted by Vecinos de Akumal Norte.

  • EPA successfully neared the projected goal of deflecting at least 70% of incoming sargassum.  Issues of "leakage" and"breaching" were brought fully under control as work continued on issues of "Submersion"and "Peripheral Entry"

  • The community in Akumal Norte was invited to follow the HMB Sargassum Project Facebook page.

  • SEMARNAT issued this Aviso acknowledging receipt of EPA's updated project plan.

  • EPA's updated project plan was submitted to CONANP and the Capitania in Solidaridad.

July 2023

  • EPA submitted an updated projected report to SEMARNAT

  • The successful installation of the new barrier extension was announced in this mailing dated July 15 and time-lapse videos of the extension in action were posted to the Barrier Effectiveness Photo Album.

  • CEA published nesting stats for HMB beach showing that the number of nests are lower than in recent years but about on par with 2018.  Questions on whether nesting activity might be impacted by the barrier are addressed in this document on monitoring nesting activity.

  • EPA updated this Expense Sharing Plan to show each property in the HIZ that's committed to paying their fair share of barrier operating expenses.

  • EPA transitioned from the Installation Phase of the project (funded with charitable donations to the Yucatan Environmental Foundation) to the Maintenance Phase of the project (funded via invoicing by EcoProteccion Akumal)
     

June 2023

  • Plans for changing the barrier configuration were shared with the community in an announcement dated June 23.

  • The forecast arrival of Tropical Storm Bret prompted EPA to schedule a Hurricane Preparedness Drill for opening or removing the barrier when Hurricanes are forecast as Category 3 or  greater.

  • EPA hosted a Zoom meeting for property owners in the HIZ to explain the Fairshare Expense Sharing Plan and published these recordings for those who could not attend:

    • Intro  /  Q&A Session

  • ZOFEMAT, the government agency responsible for beach cleaning contacted EPA about sending a team of 35 workers to clean and dispose of the sargassum that's rotting on the HMB beach.

  • Vecinos de Akumal Norte engaged in discussions with the HMB Sargassum Project about how the community might come together to clean the HMB Beach, including the idea of having Vecinos host a Cleanup Day as they did for local parks. 

  • EPA engaged barrier manufacturer, Okeanis, in designing a new configuration for the short CONNECTING segment of  barrier that attaches the MAIN 600 meter barrier to the shoreline.  Excess breaching of sargassum and a malfunction of the wedge anchoring system led to this decision.

  • EPA hosted a Q&A session on barrier performance and operating expenses.  A recording of the Insession is available here:
    http://ec2-54-202-43-228.us-west-2.compute.amazonaws.com/x/d?c=32072622&l=39c8a19b-e441-4c8b-b940-0e8e86a94108&r=9da6f682-2396-453e-8e6d-6d160dd2a29a

  • EPA launched a Facebook page that can be accessed here:  https://www.facebook.com/EcoAkumal

  • Ongoing video surveillance of the 600 meter Main Segment of barrier demonstrates the ongoing deflection of almost all sargassum that collects behind the mesh netting.

  • This website was converted from a fundraising tool to a vehicle for communicating scientific data about the impact of the barrier.

  • EPA began communicating with each of these 30 properties that benefit directly from sargassum mitigation about covering their "fair share" of barrier operating costs.

  • On June 7th, EPA announced the MAIN 600 meter segment of barrier appeared to be in a stable configuration  and was working to deflect at least 70% of incoming sargassum. The shorter CONNECTING segment, however, that connects the main section to the shore will require further adjustments to better withstand the rigors of wave action against the rocky coastline.

  • Professional photographer, Scott Brown, was engaged to use drone footage and still photography to monitor the barrier.

 

May 2023

  • A mailing dated May 24th was sent detailing barrier performance to date.

  • EPA engaged with CEA to finalize plans for the independent environmental monitoring program that will ensure the barrier infrastructure does not cause unintended environmental damage.

  • The EPA Team began the complex process of positioning and adjusting the barrier to achieve the configuration required to meet project goals of deflecting at least 70% of incoming sargassum.

  • Under the supervision of Project Manager, Ivan Penie, and a representative from Okeanis, a Barrier Maintenance Team used boats deployed from Akumal Beach to initiate barrier installation.

  • The Port Authority in Playa del Carmen published Aviso Nautico 007/2023 alerting the public to the sanctions and fines they will impose for any damage caused to the barrier.   

  • This mailing announced that barrier installation would begin May 1st
     

April 2023

  • Three container trucks delivered barrier netting and buoys to a contracted storage location in Akumal Pueblo.

  • Import specialist, Dombar, skillfully shepherded 3 shipping containers through Mexican customs

  • This website was updated with a Live Action Photo Album so residents can follow our progress remotely.

  • Project Manager, Ivan Penie, submitted the required installation update paperwork to SEMARNAT.

  • The commercial vessel carrying our barrier arrived at the port of Progresso on Earth Day, 2023.

March 2023

  • Ivan Penie rents, clears, equips, and secures a storage facility for the barrier and project equipment in Akumal pueblo.

  • EcoProteccion Akumal (EPA) hired Ivan Penie, an environmental engineer with expertise in coastal management to manage Barrier Maintenance & Environmental Monitoring.  

February 2023

  • Our custom-made barrier was loaded onto a commercial vessel in Thessaloniki, Greece and set out for the port of Progreso, outside Merida.

  • 1000 meters of custom-made, ruggedized mesh netting plus 650 buoys rolled off the production line at a factory operated by barrier manufacturer, Okeanis, and loaded into 3 shipping containers.  After a quality control inspection, the manufacturing contract was paid in full.

  • Divers completed installation of environmentally sound anchorage, including 45 rod anchors, hundreds of meters of galvanized steel chain and 43 anchor marking buoys.

  • Our decision to install the barrier as quickly as possible was hailed by donors as a good move when the 2023 sargassum season stated early and was projected to be the worst one on record yet.
     

January 2023

  • A team of 3 professional divers with years of experience on oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico, drilled holes at designated GPS coordinates for the installation of 45 environmentally sound steel rod anchors using commercial grade epoxy.

  • A new bathymetric study of the sea floor was conducted over a wider area on either side of the adjusted installation path to determine the ideal GPS coordinates for the installation of an environmentally sound anchorage system.

 

December 2022

  • Significant research was done to identify the most economical sources for rigging, equipment, and other supplemental materials required for barrier installation.  A delivery and storage location was setup at an address in North Akumal.

  • A decision was made to invest in drones and underwater scooters to make barrier installation and inspection easier and less expensive.  Some of this equipment will be donated to CEA to assist them in their environmental monitoring.

 

November 2022

  • EcoProteccion Akumal (EPA), the Mexican non-profit established to manage barrier contracts, signed an agreement with barrier manufacturer, Okeanis, and paid an initial deposit for a custom-designed sargassum barrier comprised of 600 meters of mesh netting and buoy posts.

  • A team of professional divers (with experience on oil rigs) was hired to do a test installation of 12 rod anchors in order to experiment with a range of cost saving procedures for installing and operating the barrier. (Testing various procedures ahead of time,  allowed us to streamline and perfect the installation process for the remaining anchors before the barrier arrives, and yielded SIGNIFICANT savings of both time and money.)

October 2022

  • Hector Lizárraga, Director of El Centro Ecológico Akumal (CEA) participated in the site visit to launch the objective, third party environmental monitoring that is getting funded through our "Sustainable Financing" initiative.  CEA has been charged with preparing a detailed budget and project proposal for monitoring the impact the barrier may have on marine life, including the egress of turtle hatchlings from Half Moon Bay and whether barrier infrastructure might impact accumulations of sargassum on the southern headlands outside the bay.

  • A rep from barrier manufacturer, Okeanis, visited North Akumal to conduct a site survey, meet with the maintenance team and to finalize installation plans.  It was decided to perform a second survey of the seafloor to determine the optimum GPS locations for the barrier anchors, including a bathymetric survey (depth soundings) for the proposed barrier path.

  • EPA began interviewing local companies with the qualifications to handle barrier maintenance with the goal of hiring the top candidate in March of 2023.  Staff must be trained in ongoing maintenance of the barrier as well as in the use of specialized equipment such as drones and underwater scooters that will be deployed to cut time and maintenance expenses.

​​

September 2022

  • Critical onsite visits were scheduled with a variety of project partners to better specify installation logistics and timelines and ensure these details are included in all project contracting. ​

  • Importation specialist, Dombar, was contracted to handle shipping and sheparding barrier thru Mexican customs. 

  • The HMB Sargassum Project team invested over 60 man-hours in contract negotiations with barrier manufacturer, Okeanis, to get the best terms possible.  Key negotiating goals include:

    • protecting donors’ investment 

    • quality control & testing requirements

    • Specification of delivery timeline and obligations

  • Our fundraising campaign surpassed a key milestone. With almost $400k in the bank, there was more than enough funding on hand to cover the entire cost of manufacturing, shipping and installing a sargassum barrier outside the reef in Half Moon Bay. So a decision was made to finalize a manufacturing contract with renowned barrier manufacturer, Okeanis, one of multiple manufacturers who bid on the project.

August 2022

  • Complications arose in obtaining an RFC number for Ecoproteccion Akumal (EPA), the Mexican non-profit established to handle contracting and barrier project management so an existing Mexican non-profit was engaged to assist with tax-deductible donations made in pesos.  

  • A resident of Akumal Norte expressed concern that barrier infrastructure could harm the local turtle population. The director of CEA, an independent environmental group, replied with this email assuring residents that his organization will conduct independent, 3rd party environmental monitoring throughout the turtle nesting season.  The director's email also explained the scientific consensus that the planned configuration of the barrier is very unlikely to impact nesting turtles and their hatchlings.  

  • Our attorneys began developing contract templates for barrier maintenance services.  

July 2022

  • Community support for the project became very clear when, less than a month after the SEMARNAT mailing, 80% of pledges were converted to tax-deductible contributions!! 

 

June 2022

  • An announcement about SEMARNAT was sent to all property owners and local businesses who pledged financial support for the project along with a form for converting their pledge to an actual tax-deductible donation.

  • SEMARNAT completed their review of our 49 page barrier proposal and sent us an Official Notice giving the green light to proceed.

  • Jose Juan Dominguez, head of the CONAMP office in Quintana Roo sent an official letter approving the project and then publicly hailed our proposal as one of the best researched and environmentally sound proposals he has ever seen.

February 2022

  • EcoProteccion Akumal (EPA) was officially registered as a non-profit civil association by the Registro Comercio in Playa del Carmen.

  • El Centro Ecológico Akumal (CEA) agreed to provide independent, third-party monitoring of the possible environmental impact that might result from the installation of barrier infrastructure.

 

December 2021

  • Arturo Orozco of the Akumal Dive Center joins the HMB Sargassum Committee to assist in communications with both SEMARNAT and CONAMP, the government agencies with environmental oversight on projects such as ours.

  • Barrier manufacturer, Okeanis, is selected as the winning bidder.

  • The amount of financial support pledged by property owners and local businesses surpasses the projected cost of the barrier.

 

November 2021

  • Legal counsel was put on retainer to:

    • Establish a Mexican non-profit that can handle contracting and project management of the barrier project and….

    • Prepare a formal proposal for submission to SEMARNAT whose permission is required for all work done in the federal zone per the stipulations in this document.

 

October 2021

  • The Yucatan Environmental Foundation (YEF), a US-based non-profit, entered into an agreement to assist the HMB Sargassum Project in collecting tax-deductible contributions from US residents and providing necessary receipts.

  • The list of bidders is narrowed down to 2 finalists:  Desmi and Okeanis.

  • The barrier design was revised with input from marine biologists to ensure safe egress from the bay for turtle hatchlings. Design improvements included angling the barrier outward and an enlarged opening  at the northern end of 700 feet (nearly the length of 2 football fields)

 

September 2021

  •  Configuration of the barrier is modified based on the specific characteristics of HMB.  This allows for a shorter, open ended barrier that reduces the original budget from $600,000  to only $475,000.

  • The HMB Sargassum Project finalized the RFP for submission to 5 commercial manufacturers of mesh-style sargassum netting but decided NOT to seek proposals from providers who manufacture oil booms or other inflatable barriers, even though this style barrier is less costly and more widely available in Mexico. (Click here to learn why.)

  • Within 6 weeks of launching the website and an associated email marketing campaign, the HMB Sargassum Project garnered more than a quarter million dollars in pledges of financial support from property owners and local businesses.

August 2021

  • The HMB Sargassum Project announced their commitment to “sustainable financing” by publishing a budget that included a whopping $100,000 for environmental protection and monitoring!  Project goals were clarified to include not only the mitigation of the environmental damage caused by sargassum infestations but also the prevention of any unexpected, ancillary environmental damage, that might be caused by barrier infrastructure, including to turtle hatchlings who require safe egress from HMB throughout the so-called “sargassum season”​

  • The HMB Sargassum Project was established as an organization independent of Vecinos de Akumal Norte. Their first act was to publish this website explaining the causes and possible solutions to sargassum infestations in Half Moon Bay with links to information on a variety of companies engaged in a range of sargassum mitigation techniques from barriers and boats to mechanical removal from beaches, and spraying, etc..

 

PRIOR TO AUGUST 2021

  • Vecinos de Akumal Norte determined that the association, itself, did not have the bandwidth or resources to survey the community or otherwise get involved in sargassum mitigation.  Vecinos recommended that committee members who still wished to pursue the issue should embark on an independent effort of their own.

  • Members of the Sargasso Committee unanimously recommended the installation of a sargassum barrier outside the reef as the best way to mitigate sargassum in Half Moon Bay.  And presented the Vecinos board with a list of commercial barrier providers along with a draft RFP that could be used to figure out the sort of budget that would be required for a project of this scope.

  • Members of the Sargasso Committee conducted a bathymetric study of the seafloor in Half Moon Bay to determine the feasibility of anchoring a sargassum barrier outside the reef.  

  • Vecinos Sargassum Committee proposed surveying the community to determine whether there might be sufficient support for a capital campaign dedicated to raising funds for sargassum mitigation.

  • An informal group of neighbors with scientific and engineering skills volunteered to join the Sargassum Committee of Vecinos de Akumal Norte.  Beginning in early 2019, they invested nearly 250 man hours in investigating the causes of sargassum infestations in the Caribbean and a wide range of commercially proven sargassum mitigation techniques. 

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Newsletter Archives

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Real-time Tracking & Projections

Sargassum

SaWS - Satellite-based Sargassum Watch System

Sargassum Status & Projections

Where is it Now?

Weather

HMB Weather Station

Current Winds Map

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Project Resources

Executive Summary

ROI Calculations

 

Manufacturer Profile

Barrier Design

 

One Project / Two Companies

 

HIZ Map (High Impact Zone on HMB)

Sargassum Committee Profiles

 

HMB Photo Gallery

 

SEMARNAT

 

FAQs

 

Causes of Sargasso Blooms

 

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Press Coverage & Scientific Articles

(See links at base of Resources Page)

Satellite Tracking
Resources
Commercial Uses
Press
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