Cooperation of neighbors, agencies
lessens Kantenah lagoon sargassum
PA developer works to end future invasions;
Akumal hit hard at Turtle, Half Moon bays
While decisive homeowners like Alberto and Gabriella Rivera, their neighbors, a handful of marines from the local base, Colonos employees and hired help skimmed the Kantenah Lagoon of odiferous sargassum weed a few weeks ago, iconic Puerto Aventuras developer Roman Rivera Torres was at his desk quietly studying and designing proposed barriers to prevent a reoccurrence of such invasions in the lagoon and the shores of Puerto Aventuras.
Simultaneously, Colonos GM Armando Rincon hosted several meetings of Kantenah neighbors to explain what the Colonos could and could not do to rid the lagoon of an attack that was killing fish and emitting a quite unpleasant odor, making life difficult for the lagoon residents. After one such meeting, Alberto Rivera, not a relative of Roman Rivera, decided that time for talk was over and took personal action.
No Mexican’ts here
The owner of “Definitive Solutions”, a roofing , painting and waterproofing company, rallied nearly a dozen of his employees on a Saturday morning, purchased numerous rakes, gathered several kayaks and began the task of skimming the weed from the water to the lagoon shoreline and packing it in plastic bags provided by the Colonos. They were soon enough joined by federal marines, Colonos employees and neighbors who either worked or donated money to help defray the cost of hired help and the purchase of rakes.
“One of our employees brought a large net he used for fishing,” Alberto Rivera said, and by mid-day the thick collection of weed that had settled at the very end of the lagoon was netted onto the shore to be stored in some of the 300 bags provided by the Colonos. Colonos GM Rincon said the bagged sargassum was collected by Colonos trucks and deposited on land behind the cultural center and, when ready, will be used as mulch on Colonos property.
The lagoon clean-up continued for a week with some 10 workers from the Colonos, the marines, the Catalonia hotel and Quinta Luna condominiums, including use of a pump to generate water flow and raise sargassum that had sunk to the bottom and remove it from the lagoon.
A temporary net has also been placed further up the lagoon to partially block any potentially imminent repeat of the invasion. The result? Sargassum continued choking the lagoon channel south of the bridge where Catalonia workers continued raking it ashore, while the inner lagoon, where residents live,has remained relatively free of the weed.
Long term solution
Some residents said this has never happened before with sargassum. They alleged the Catalonia hotel’s recent tinkering with the natural flow of water by installing a series of pyramidal stone reef just off-shore to preserve beach sand is what caused the lagoon invasion. They also say the hotel altered the natural lagoon entrance channel that could also be contributing to the vegetative intrusion.
Arq. Roman Rivera Torres believes the residents have a point to make. He pulled a file from among many on his desk and displayed a series of drawings of the PA shoreline marked with lines and arrows showing the flow of local sea water. In particular, he also displayed what he believes could be the reason for the possible first-ever flow of sargassum into the lagoon.
Permitting process flawed
He said the design of the hotel’s reef was to keep the sand in but probably didn’t consider keeping the sargassum out. The drawings show new designs for the reef placement and changes in the lagoon entrance channel. The design will be reviewed by scientists for a second opinion, he said.
Roman Rivera said even if the Catalonia agrees to reef and channel changes, new permits will be required and that presents a whole new problem. “They (the hotel) had to wait 2.5 year for the barrier permit,” Rivera said. “Another permit to make some changes could take another year or more.” He inferred that the permitting process is too cumbersome to yield quick fixes and needs some serious fixing itself.
He said the first wave of sargassum to hit the shore occurred several months ago and settled on the Chac Hal Al Condominium shoreline. There too, about 24 neighbors – some elderly – worked together to remove the the pest weed. “Other residents made lemonade and brought it down to them,” he said. The Omni Hotel next door also took steps to clear the beach while the developer worked on designs to hopefully prevent a recurrence in the future. All the parties agreed that the clean-up efforts in both locations showed exemplary community spirit. (See Mail Bag letter below)
Caleta has tidal deposits
Meanwhile, the caleta in Phase 4 continues to have rather large recurring deposits of sargassum at its terminus near the Mayan ruin. These deposits, however, apparently come and go with the flow, perhaps some of it sinking by the ruins. While the deposits in the Kantenah lagoon, where tidal flow is minimal, have resulted in fish kills for lack of oxygen, the sargassum in the caleta, which has strong tidal flow, is teeming with tiny fish that are similar to sea horses and swim so slowly that bathers can easily capture them with bare hands. Dr. Enrique Perez, PA’s resident dentist, happened to be bathing at the caleta with his family last weekend and suggested the substantial flow of water in and out of the caleta brings with it enough oxygen to sustain the fish there.
The assumption among bathers there last Sunday is that these fish, never seen before in the caleta, came flowing in with the sargassum and are responsible for attracting sea birds such as egrets and even land-based black grackles observed landing and standing on the sargassum – thick as it was – perhaps feeding on the tiny fish.
Eat it to beat it
Sargassum to this degree is a relatively new natural occurrence along the coast here just as a newly discovered warm seawater mass along California’s Pacific coastline dubbed “The Blob” is believed responsible for thousands of dead seabirds and emaciated sea lion pups washing ashore.
Taking a page from the “Lionfish” saga’s mantra “Eat it to beat it”, three students from the Riviera University researched possible uses of sargassum to help sustain society and found answers in Japan, France and University of California where sea algae is turned into food and/or fertilizer. The students actually baked a cake of kelp and are now looking for approval to market the product.
A walk along Turtle Bay in Akumal this week also revealed a shore loaded with sargassum as large-scale construction of all-inclusive hotel rooms continued for quite a stretch along the bay. Workers loaded and hauled sargassum into wheelbarrows for removal as some hotel guests snorkeled and others sunned themselves among the clusters of beach palapas under construction despite the weed infestation.
Billfish tourney here May 5-19
to host eight wounded warriors
Eight American “wounded warriors” will be treated to four days of fishing, golf and snorkeling from May 15-19 in collaboration with Capt. Rick’s Sportsfishing center and the 12th annual Dave Harris Memorial Charity Billfish Tournament.
“The tournament is very excited to share this incredible experience with these soldiers who have sacrificed so much for world peace.” said tournament spokesman Don Harris. He said in all there will be 48 people participating in the tournament, including the eight warriors, all of whom will be staying at the Aventuras Club.
Last year the Hard Rock Hotel treated the warriors to a Bon Jovi concert and donated a weekend stay to a Wounded Warriors In Action (WWIA) raffle in support of the event.
The organization serves U.S. combat veterans wounded in action by providing world class outdoor sporting activities as a way of recognizing their sacrifice, encourage independence and promote healing.
Purple Heart recipients participating this year include Justin Gaertner who lost both legs in Afghanistan; Raymond Kusch, who lost his left leg and suffered other major injuries when stepping on an improvised explosive device (IED) ; Mark Broda, who suffered multiple shrapnel wounds when a truck bomb detonated in Saudi Arabia; Aaron Estes, suffered life-threatening injuries over most of his body when stepping on an IED in Afghanistan and spent three years in rehabilitation; Tyson Scott, injured seriously by a mortar explosion; Adam Kiselewski, who lost his left arm and right leg to an IED in Iraq; Brett Bondurant, who lost both legs and suffered fractures to his left arm, both hands and pelvis in Afghanistan from an IED. The eighth warrior asked for anonymity.
Federal agency declares stretch
of Akumal area a fish sanctuary
Beach access for puebla residents still an issue
A federal agency has decreed a 7.6 km section of Akumal’s shoreline as a protected fish sanctuary, but it hasn’t stopped residents of the community’s puebla from seeking to negotiate assurances of continued free access to the beach.
While a press release from the privately held Centro Ecologico Akumal (CEA) announced the April 14 decree by the federal SAGARPA agency (oversees agriculture, livestock, rural development, food and fisheries), a contingent of puebla residents was meeting with municipal officials in Tulum seeking assurances they would have continued free access to the beach. The CEA has previously issued statements that Akumal puebla residents will continue to have free passage even if other day-guests are eventually charged a fee.
The protected area begins at the Caleta del Yalkuito on the north and continues southerly through the CEA property to the southern limit of the Hotel Grand Bahia Principe and 1.5 km from the beach seaward. The decree was issued on its face value to protect 21 species of fish and crustaceans of commercial interest, and to curtail and reverse the deterioration of the reefs.
Since the whole idea of the refuge is to allow dwindling stocks time to propagate and re-populate, no commercial fishing is allowed in the newly declared refuge area, according to the press release from CEA. The need for such action was outlined in various studies that found declining health of coral reefs and 60 percent reduction in density of fish population during the last seven years.
Puebla residents claim the underlying intent of CEA lobbying for a refuge decree, which they said they perceive as legal trickery, is to control access to the beach for hotels there with an eye toward charging a fee to enter and thus limiting access under the guise of conservation. The CEA says those opinions are the product of misinformation. (See companion brief in Nature Watch below.)
PA poblado also pursuing beach access
If there is a light at the end of the tunnel for residents of the Puerto Aventuras Poblado praying for beach access, it shines on rocky ground. It appears that the municipal government is looking at legally disputed land across from Dolphinarius on Highway 307 between PA and Paamul as a possible corridor to the sea for them.
Problem is, however, that the beach is rocky terrain “both on the shore and in the water,” reports one of two PA resort women who recently walked the shore from PA to Paamul, “not what one would call a beach.” At any rate, the government says even that option is not seen as a short-term solution but one that would take considerable time to decipher the legal ownership status. A spokesman for the poblado residents replied that they have “patience.”
Meanwhile , the group is also looking for a discount to use the beach at Xpu Ha where there is a charge of 50 pesos to gain beach access. They ask for a 50 percent reduction to 25 pesos.
Court rejects complaint filed
against Centro board by café
HOA wants back-fees, common area cleared
The court has rejected the merit of a criminal complaint filed by Café Ole against a former board of Centro Comercial. The charge was brought following the board’s ordering the destruction of parts of a bar that was installed on common property by the café. It was a voted action by the board to return the common property to its original state to end running disagreements between the two parties.
The prior board’s action caused an unsettling commotion at the scene on the day it occurred. Subsequently, café supporters took to social media with some unpleasant protest of the board’s action. The board was subsequently recalled in an effort to help cool the rhetoric and a new board elected while a criminal complaint that was filed by the café awaited a court decision. That decision has now been rendered and it favors the prior board.
Meanwhile, voters of the business district have approved continuing the action in the case of the café and of several other unit owners to collect late fees the association claims it is owed, according to the minutes of the Feb. 21, 2015 assembly. In addition, the assembly voted to continue the legal process of returning the cafe’s common property to its original state.
Asked if he wanted to comment on the court decision dismissing his complaint and the latest assembly vote to continue the process started by the previous board, café co-owner Gary Adams said : “I think it’s best we all wait and see. I don’t need to go public. This is far from over.”
Q. Roo third in malaria cases
The state of Quintana Roo ranked third in cases of malaria so far this year, after Campeche with 53 cases and 22 in Chiapas, it was reported on World Malaria Day last Sunday. In the entire country over the last thirteen weeks, only eight states reported malaria infections, which is mosquito-borne, as is dengue fever, except that dengue is a virus and malaria a parasite.
Both of these afflictions are transmitted by the bite of the mosquito and one reason cases have been reported in Q. Roo is the presence of many mangroves, a favorite breeding spot for mosquitoes.
High fever is the major symptom of malaria with a temperature of 39-40 Celsius (102-104 F) . People of any age can be infected. Protection against malaria is much like protection from dengue – comprehensive large-scale mosquito control efforts, keeping a clean yard and environment, elimination of pooling, still water and localized spraying.
Two ways of investing in Mexico,
as individual or as a corporation
By Gerardo Gonzalez Gamboa
Mexico is a country of emerging economies and it is safe to assume that it would be a profitable place to establish a business either on your own or through a partnership. In either case, an experienced legal/business advisor is a good way to start.
From the legal point of view, as in most countries, there are two types of legal figures: An individual or a corporation (persona física and persona moral, respectively). An individual is the person enjoying rights and is the one to incur obligations. Any individual and corporation coming together for a lawful purpose is known as “social order,” and can include companies, associations or any other legal figure.
Unlike a natural individual, a legal individual must choose the corporate name, or denomination, with which to operate in this country. The denomination has legal disposition, i.e. rights and obligations, and a heritage.
For foreigners, it is important to know why: If you are part of a legal entity created in Mexico by the laws of this country, this entity is considered 100 percent Mexican: It will be unable to take any other nationality and can include individuals that may have more than one nationality.
There are many investment options in Mexico that take many forms, each due to different situations. That is why, after researching the topic, it is very important to seek efficient and reliable legal advice to explain your particular circumstances and take the decision that best suits your needs and those of your business.
If you’ve decided that Mexico is the ideal destination for your investments, the next important decision is to have a representative in whom you can trust, make your goals yours and who will be by your side all the way. This how you can ensure your investments are on the path to success. (Learn about Mexlaw by clicking on its logo in the sponsor column.)
CONTINUING EDUCATION – Dr. Enrique Perez, the PA resort’s general dentist and local resident, will be at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA, May 2-6, for a clinical leadership course presented by Harvard’s Department of Oral Health. This is the fourth course Dr. Perez has taken at Harvard in recent years. He also attended the World Congress of the International Federation of Aesthetic Dentists in Germany in September, 2013.
Two house breaks reported
A thief broke into two houses on Bahia Chemuyil in mid-April and in one case, walked into the bedroom of the owner while the owner slept. Security reported that the owner was awakened when the thief knocked something over, causing the thief to scramble out of the room, with the owner not far behind. The thief reportedly was photographed on a security camera before jumping a fence onto the resort property, but not leaving the property. A computer was taken in this break and a camera in the other.
The events prompted distribution of a letter drafted by the Colonos and sent to homeowners cautioning them to lock ground-floor windows and doors to deter what Security believes are amateur crooks who are apparently desperate for one reason or another, such as purchasing drugs. It is believed this type of thief goes from one building to another looking for an easy entry.
Security said in its report the thief or thieves are using the golf course as a means of quick access to the perimeter fence after breaking into nearby homes. The Security department has recently acquired a golf cart and is patrolling the golf course at night while a new Security car is patrolling the perimeter fence.
Owners of individual homes and condos, particularly on the ground floor, are reminded to secure all possible means of access to their units. Forewarned is forearmed.
Hope cashier “wins” dose of honesty
A cashier at Chedraui’s Super Market across the highway purchased a lottery ticket last week, no doubt hoping to win a big prize to fulfill her dreams. Problem is, she bought the ticket with a customer’s money and instead of winning, she at least lost face because she got caught.
The gamble occurred as a man and his wife were checking out and the wife was engaged in a conversation with a bagger in an adjacent line. The husband noticed the cashier nervously fidgeting with a lottery ticket as she punched in prices of purchased items.
When the customers returned home, the wife noticed this item at the bottom of the receipt: “Salto del Gane – 10 pesos.” Several days later on another shopping trek, the receipt was brought to Chedraui’s to ask the person at the customer service booth what “Salto del Gane” meant. He concurred it was a lottery ticket purchase…which neither the man nor the woman had asked for or received.
As it happens, the cashier was at work that day too. The customer service man went to her and after a short conversation with her – as she looked with worried demeanor at the customers in question – returned with 10 pesos and offered it to the customers with his deepest apologies. “She said it was a mistake,” he said. The customers didn’t take the pesos in the hope the woman “won” a new respect for honesty. Forewarned is forearmed. Keep your vigilance close, and your wallet or pocketbook closer.
If these shenanigans continue, PA will become known as a sunny place for shady people.
PLAYA RED CROSS DIRECTOR Horacio Moreno Trinidad, now in negotiations with Puerto Aventuras financial elements for the potential re-opening of the PA clinic and ambulance service, has been named fire chief in Playa del Carmen. It was not reported whether he will continue in both jobs… A NEW RESTAURANT is expected to open sometime this summer in the former Tiramisu location adjacent to Hippo’s… DRONE COMPLAINTS were expressed at a local eatery by a group of women who resent drones flying around their windows at 11 p.m. … FERRY CROSSINGS to Cozumel averaged 12 to 15,000 tourists a day during the Easter season, breaking records… LOST AT SEA was a man on a jet ski who tried to cross the channel from Playa del Carmen to Cozumel last weekend. A female companion on another jet ski was rescued by the Navy some seven hours after leaving Playa on the journey. Mechanical failure and strong winds may have played a part in the disappearance… TOYOTA will build a modern assembly plant in Guanajuato State to produce the Corolla model for the U.S. market now being made in Canada. The plant should be on line in 2019, save 40 percent in production costs and bring consumer prices downward. Unreported is what happens to the Canadian plant and its workers?… MEANWHILE, World Bank leader Jim Yong Kim has applauded Mexico’s “aggressive” reform agenda aimed at “bright” growth… YUCATAN APRIL WEATHER in some places reached a high of 42 degrees Celsius (108F) with a few cases of heat stroke and exhaustion but no deaths. Health officials issued health warnings particularly for the elderly and children vulnerable to various heat-related symptoms The temperature reached a record high in Merida at 43.6 C (110.8 F)… DROUGHT CONDITIONS caused a number of brush fires around Playa del Carmen including one that came close to Plaza Las Americas that scorched more than two hectares before firefighters got it under control… PRESIDENT PENA NIETO canceled a speech at the Panamerican University last month because school officials wanted to limit the audience to a chosen few students… BOULEVARD PLAYA DEL CARMEN, which is Highway 307 under and along the Playa del Carmen overpass, has claimed another life when a Veracruz resident was hit by a transport van near Painters Avenue. In February two workers were hit by a drunk driver while also trying to cross the boulevard…A FOOD POISONING CASE traced to chicken meat in Bacalar prompted federal health commission agents in Playa del Carmen to inspect some 133 outlets selling rotisserie and raw chicken meat to prevent further outbreaks… THE DEATH SENTENCE by hanging of three Mexican brothers accused of drug trafficking was confirmed by the Malaysian high court. The judges rejected the defense’s allegations of insufficient evidence. Only a royal pardon can now save the brothers from the gallows… SEMARNAT’S FEDERAL DEPUTY in Quintana Roo, Raul Gonzalez, has resigned his post for health reasons. SEMARNAT is the Ministry of Environmental and Natural Resources and as such involved in the permitting of many activities concerning development along the coast and a target of various complaints by developers… THE MEXICAN GOVERNMENT says your chances of having a bad accident increases by 400 percent while driving and simultaneously talking on a cell phone…
The Mail Bag…
On missing some hurricanes
Thanks, as always, for the great service that you provide with your newsletter. In reading the most current issue, I found an omission in the reporting regarding the hurricanes in the Yucatan over the past 41 years.
There have been SIX hurricanes since 1941 – the four that you have named (Inez, Gilbert, Roxanne and Wilma – as well as Hurricane Emily, which made landfall on July 18, 2005 as a Category 4 storm; and Hurricane Dean, which made landfall in Mahahual as a Category 5 on August 21, 2007.
I remember both well – we lost all of the windows on the top two floors of our condo building here on Half Moon Bay in North Akumal, and I was very involved in relief efforts in Mahahual in 2007. Additionally, we drove down to Mexico for the first time following Dean and witnessed the devastation and destruction from the Texas border, along the Gulf Coast and through the isthmus and up the peninsula from Chetumal to Akumal.
My husband and I have owned a condo in Akumal for 12 years and have been dividing our time between here and California for the past eight years. After driving back and forth 14 times, we have decided to make Akumal our home base and are now living here permanently.
Keep up the great work and let me know if there is ever any help that I can give to you from Akumal.
A quick note regarding your article about predicted hurricane activity in the Yucatan and past experiences with same. The Yucatan suffered the aftermath of not one but two(!) hurricanes in 2005. I remember them well. Read below:
Thanks for all the entertaining and informative news this season. We look forward to each edition!
You seems to have forgotten about our hurricane Emily (Category 5), in July 2005, just three months before Wilma, whose center was a few kilometers away from Puerto Aventuras and was much more damaging to the complex than Wilma. So even if hurricanes arrive every 10 years, you can get 2 in 3 months.
Signed/ T. Defauw
(Ed. Note: Thanks for the fine editing jobs. We stand corrected…and appropriately red-faced)
Restaurateur moves on
Hi, I am Peter Metrick, former owner of Latitude 20. You all know me. I have a very nice 43-foot sailboat and an excellent opportunity to do private sailing day charters out of Puerto Aventuras. I am looking for investor/partner for a small business and lots of fun in the sun. Contact me at [email protected]—or at 984-128-2933.
Blocking the lagoon
My parents own a condo at Quinta Luna, on Bahia Katenhah and the Katenhah Lagoon, across from the Catalonia and I live in Playa del Carmen so am lucky enough to visit the condo on the weekends. Today (the 25th) I noticed workers at the Catalonia Hotel blocking the small stone path that people use to cross from the Catalonia onto the rock breaker. And then I noticed workers taking rocks and throwing them into the water to close the entrance in and out of the lagoon. It is the way people who are kayaking, paddle boarding, snorkeling, jet skiing, etc, get out of the lagoon and into the sea.
My question is: How can the Catalonia do this? Did they have to get permission from the city? How does this part of the lagoon belong to them? I tried to call the Colonos office but since it is Saturday, they are closed. I’ve attached pictures. It’s upsetting to say the least, and I want to understand how they are able to do this?
I didn’t know who else to contact since the office was closed and your paper is very informative so I thought maybe you would know what was going on.Thank you.
(Ed. Note: See today’s lead story.)
Native bees without a sting,
must be left to do their thing
Mayan honey medicine: No Rx required
By Gayle Sandholm
What do Mayan artisans, birding with friends and blossoming trees have in common? Answer: “Melipona Beechi” or, stingless bees. Found in most tropical regions of the world, their honey has been gathered by Mayans for centuries. During an April 2 visit to a Mayan Artisan Fair in Playa, I first became aware of Mayan bee honey and its medicinal properties.
Melipona honey is much sweeter than honey from honey bees, imported from Europe, and is a more liquid , up to 40% compared to 20% for honey-bee honey. The flavor is often described as more flowery than honey bee honey. Melipona honey has been used in traditional medicine for thousands of years. It is a topical antibiotic, can help reduce scarring, is used for treating cataracts, and can be used as an antiseptic if you are coming down with a cold. Because honey bees yield more honey and because less of the melipona honey is being harvested, melipona honey is more expensive than honey bee honey.
Later that day. I was birding with a friend here in Puerto Aventuras when a neighbor pointed out a tree branch housing a hive of these Mayan stingless bees. They often nest in hollow trunks, tree branches, or underground cavities. (While visiting with the neighbor, bees emerged from the branch and buzzed around our heads) These bees are somewhat smaller than honey bees. It is also common for the hive to have an entry tube (see photo) as a protection from predators. There are numerous of these tree-branch hives around town. And, in case you have not heard, birds and bees go together. Pollinating bees are a favorite of many insect-eating birds.
Mayans have kept these bees for thousands of years.
They were, and still are, treated as pets. Families would have one or many log-hives hanging in and around their houses. Although they are stingless, the bees do bite and can leave welts similar to a mosquito bite. The traditional way to gather bees, still favored among the locals, is find a wild hive, then the branch is cut around the hive to create a portable log, enclosing the colony.
This log is then capped on both ends with another piece of wood or pottery and sealed with mud. This clever method keeps the melipona bees from mixing their brood, pollen, and honey in the same comb as do the European bees. The brood is kept in the middle of the hive, and the honey is stored in vertical “pots” on the outer edges of the hive.
A temporary, replaceable cap at the end of the log allows for easy access to the honey while doing minimal damage to the hive. However, inexperienced handlers can still do irreversible damage to a hive, causing the hive to swarm and abscond from the log. With proper maintenance, though, hives have been recorded as lasting over 80 years, being passed down through generations. [Wikipedia]
the traditional Mayan name for the bees, were important to trading activity of the region and only second in importance to corn (maize) in people’s lives and rituals. Considered sacred, Xunancab were the subject of religious ceremonies. It is thought that the small figure over numerous doorways and especially over the entrance of the Temple of the Descending God at the Tulum ruins is the Bee god, Ah Musen Cab.
We would do well to save these bees. Deforestation, increased insecticide use, and changing beekeeping practices with the arrival of the honey bee, have endangered these stingless wonders. So next time you see these bees going in and out of their hive, remember the beauty of blossoms around us, the pollinated fruits we enjoy, the many, striking birds that depend on the blossoms, fruits and insects, and the sweet taste of honey.
NATURE BRIEF– The first turtle of the nesting season came ashore in Akumal in April, dug a tunnel but didn’t spawn as the nesting season was set to legally begin on May 1 and end Oct. 30. The Ecological Center of Akumal (CEA) has already been monitoring the community’s various beaches since April 1. Last year the center recorded 303 loggerhead nests on its shores, 128 at Half Moon Bay, 37 at Akumql Bay and 138 nests in Turtle Bay and South Akumal.
Notice: The exodus of English-reading snowbirds is just about complete for the season. In keeping with this annual migration north, the Pelican Free Press ends its weekly publications with today’s issue and begins monthly (and special) editions beginning in May. As customary, we will notify subscribers of publication dates via e-mail. We extend a special gratitude to our sponsors for their support of this effort to inform and occasionally entertain the residents of Puerto Aventuras and environs. Ex-pats living here year-round can contact us at [email protected] or U.S. telephone 508-771-5174. Until November: The Publisher
Community continuing effort
to reopen Red Cross service
Community leaders met again this week to clarify financial details and debate various approaches to reopen and sustain the Red Cross clinic and ambulance service that closed without notice in December. It has remained shut to the chagrin of major donors here and local labor force that cannot afford private ambulance service. Red Cross officials have stated earlier that the opening of a new and much larger clinic in Playa del Carmen drained the district agency’s operating funds, necessitating the PA closure.
While Colonos GM Armando Rincon is coordinating the effort with resident Tim Howard, a member of the Colonos Vigilance Committee, Rene Malacara, general manager of the Hard Rock Hotel, has generously hosted the breakfast meetings at the Hard Rock. He and others are actively involved in pursuing a financial solution that guarantees a consistent Red Cross presence in Puerto Aventuras.
Although financial specifics are still in flux for the moment, there was general agreement among the participants they would donate fair shares, but specifically for the operation of the Puerto Aventuras clinic and ambulance as opposed to district funding, which could again divert funds for the Puerto Aventuras facility.
While the Barcelo and Catalonia Hotels were not represented at the meeting, it was understood they are also behind the effort and willing to contribute their fair share for the Puerto Aventuras operation.
The importance of a nearby Red Cross ambulance was demonstrated at the expense of a boat crewman in January who was badly burned in an accident down by the marina and had to wait 30-40 minutes for an ambulance. Fortunately, he was given emergency care by several part-time residents who had considerable nursing experience.
The Red Cross district office has twice set dates to reopen its outpost in Puerto Aventuras while funds for its operation were being donated locally, but has yet to do so. The Pelican will continue to monitor this issue in future editions.
Beware Chedraui lot ‘con couple’
Walked out of Chedraui Market across the highway at about 2 p.m. yesterday with four heavy bags. Opened the trunk and placed the bags in there, not noticing the couple behind me squirting some sticky sauce on my shirt and shorts and on the driver’s door handle. When I went to open the door and saw the mess, a woman appeared with napkins and began wiping the door as her male partner began wiping the back of my shirt as though they were good Samaritans.
They must have figured me for an easy mark, not a lifelong journalist who spent many years on the police and court beats learning all about these scams. I wheeled from the door, felt for my wallet – it was still in my buttoned pocket so no crime other than vandalism had been committed – and hissed at the couple in a gesturing rage: “Get the f— away from me before I whack you.” They disappeared like quicksilver among the parked cars while I tried to find something to get the sticky stuff off my hands.
I removed my now-soiled shirt, placed a copy of the Playa Times on my seat to absorb the sticky stuff near my wallet in my shorts, drove twice around the lot to see if I could spot them but didn’t, went home, shocked my wife as I walked in without a shirt, ate two croissants, drank a small Pepsi, wrote this editorial, and published the Pelican with a warning for shoppers at the Chedraui Market to be alert for the scam artists, a male and female who appeared to be in their fifties. Forewarned is forearmed.
On other fronts, kudos to local hotels that snuff the loud music by 11 p.m. as requested by residents through the Colonos rules. One resident wrote to us this week suggesting the compliment since he has been able to enjoy sitting in his garden evenings quietly contemplating silent nights in Paradise
While many people complained a few years ago about the prolific appearance of algae in the dolphin pools, none have spoken out about how clean the pools have been this year. Let’s hear it for GM Guillermo Lobo and his work crews for a job well done.
THE RIGHT STUFF!…
Relax: Hurricane season forecast
predicts a below-average year
The talk at breakfast last Thursday among the few remaining snowbirds somehow evolved into a discussion of nylon hurricane “curtains” that some folks are using instead of the squeaky aluminum affairs that appear to be the protection of choice here. And that discussion reminded the Pelican to check if the annual Colorado State University extended forecast for the hurricane season beginning June 1 and lasting until November had been released.
It was, and it’s good news.
Professors Phil Klotzbach and Bill Gray, meteorologists with doctorates, predict a below average Atlantic-Caribbean storm season with seven named storms, only three mild hurricanes and one major hurricane. This comes on the heels of one of the mildest seasons on record. Average forecasts are for seven of 12 named storms to develop into major hurricanes.
While precautions remain necessary for those who leave their property unattended during the summer months, the forecast does offer relief from worry since these professors from the university’s Tropical Meteorology Project have been pretty much on the mark with their predictions in the past.
And, while we do hear foreboding whispers of the Yucatan’s vulnerability to tropical storms and hurricane, the fact is that the Yucatan area has had only four hurricanes in 41 years. There was Inez (October, 1968) – Category 4; Gilbert (September, 1988) – Category 5; Roxanne (October, 1995) – Category 3 and of course, Wilma (October, 2005) – Category 5, that hit this area pretty hard.
So it’s been 10 years since this specific area has been battered by hurricane force winds and tides and we might be encouraged by the fact that there was a 20-year span between Inez and 7 between Gilbert and Roxanne. On the other hand, a pessimistic view is also appropriate since there was only a 10-year span between Roxanne and Wilma, the latter in 2005 – 10 years ago. Oh! Oh!
El Niño conditions also promote a stronger vertical wind shear in the Atlantic, making it more difficult for storms and hurricanes to develop. In contrast, El Niño can lead to a more active tropical season for the Pacific Ocean.
Temperatures could be around
90-100 degrees F. on Yucatan
Warnings against UV rays and dehydration went out on the Yucatan Peninsula last week and continued into this week as temperatures climbed to a record 40 degrees C (104 F) in some places like Merida. One degree Celsius equals 33.8 degrees Farenheit.
That continuing weather pattern was expected this week as drought conditions worsen for farmers in the Chetumal region and has some area homeowners pondering private wells as a hedge against waning community water supplies.
Conagua’s (water agency) hydrometeorological center said temperatures will be near the record because the region will remain in an anti-cyclonic, or high-pressure, system. This system is linked to stable weather conditions, significantly high temperatures and lack of rain.
Officials of community services are cautioned residents not to linger in the sunshine mostly between noon and 4 p.m., drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration, mostly between those afternoon hours, and wear protective clothing and/or sun block lotions.
New airport in Puerto Aventuras
holds added promise for area
The proposed airport in Puerto Aventuras touted early on as a “replacement” for the aerodrome in Playa del Carmen is turning out to be much more than just a replacement.
According to latest reports, the landing strip, for example, will be long enough to handle business jets. That being the case, it could also easily accommodate a type of regional propeller craft such as the twin-engine Cessna 402 that is used in short-range shuttles from suburban areas like Puerto Aventuras to connecting flights at national airports like the one in Cancun.
Other improvements over the outdated and tiny aerodrome in the heart of the hectic business section of Playa del Carmen include a terminal building, control tower, hangars, a runway length estimated at roughly 1,600 meters (5,425 feet) long and 30 meters (98 feet) wide capable of accommodating medium sized jet aircraft.
The plan also includes construction of a road (just north of Lapis Jewelry) which has already begun into the jungle from Highway 307 (at the Chedraui retorno) to reach the airport site in the jungle, fencing around the facilities, interior roads, parking and conservation areas, fuel depot, fire and rescue operation, taxiways and elevator platforms.
With a forward-thinking, well-equipped and designed airport facility capable of handling passengers and limited cargo (such as mail) comes added shuttle possibilities.
For example, Dan Wolf, the owner and pilot of Cape Air of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, started shuttling passengers between Provincetown on the tip of Cape Cod across Cape Cod Bay to Boston’s Logan International airport with one plane. In the ensuing four years between 1989’s first flight and 1993, the service expanded across New England with more planes and flights out of touristy Hyannis and posh Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard islands, iconic fishing city New Bedford and Providence, R.I.
The world was Wolf’s oyster. In 1993 Cape Air started flights between South Florida and the Keys, then expanded to Caribbean Routes between Florida and the Caribbean islands including Puerto Rico. In 2004, Cape Air tackled Micronesia in the Pacific by launching flights between Guam, Rota and Saipan with three new planes.
Today, Cape Air has a fleet of 85 Cessna 402s that carry 9-10 passengers, four Britten-Norman Islanders that carry up to nine passengers and three turbo-prop ATR 42s that carry 46 passengers and is used in the short-hop Pacific routes.
Cape Air, which has partnered with major airlines for the shuttle service, has helped bring added growth and multiple jobs to Cape Cod and could serve as a model – as could other regional airports – for pilot entrepreneurs who may envision the opportunities that could spring from a newer, small but modern airport in Puerto Aventuras. Today, Wolf is also a popular state senator in Massachusetts. Hyannis is Cape Air’s headquarters and home base.
AIRCRAFT TRIVIA: What is the shortest scheduled flight in the world? It is from Papa Westray Airport in the UK to Westray Airport and takes two minutes including taxiing.
Sargassum: Clean it up…
…or wait for it to sink
VIOLIN CONCERT – Arlindo Silva, formerly with the symphony orchestra of Portugal, will present his first solo concert here from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. April 17 at the Cultural Center to benefit the medal-winning PA Youth Sailing Club. Advance tickets are available at the Colonos office and will be sold at the door. Refreshments will be available. Mr. Silva has a quarter century of music experience and performance and is owner of the recently opened Music Academy above the Hoo Haa Restaurant in Centro Comercial.
GET MOTIVATED to overcome adversity as did Bernard “Chalky” White, one of the world’s top Alpine ski instructors, by attending his free motivational lecture at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, April 18, at the cultural center. Attendees are asked that “no young children attend” since the talk will be videotaped. Attendees may bring drinks for hydration. Admission is free.
LABOR DAY is May 1 in Mexico… SPANISH CLASSES at Latitude 20: Call Gloria Contreras at cel: 984-108-3517 for information… ERROL THE ENTERTAINER appears evenings on Tuesdays and Fridays at Latitude 20 Restaurant, the “Cheers” of Puerto Aventuras … SEASIDE ROTARY is an English speaking Rotary Club that services the Municipality of Solidaridad. The club meets at 12;30 p.m. Tuesdays at the SOHO Bistro in Playa del Carmen. Meetings are open to the public and visits from visiting Rotarians and anyone interested in doing good work to support our local community are encouraged to attend… Monthly recycling will be held from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. May 8 at the Skate Park as usual … Training Courses for employees of Dolphin Discovery will be conducted in the Colonos meeting room from May 4 through May 8… Children’s Day is April 30…
A few days after President Enrique Pena Nieto’s daughter went diving with the Aquanauts dive shop crew off Puerto Aventuras , the president himself arrived by air at Cancun Airport and visited the Riviera Maya with Quintana Roo Gov. Roberto Borge Angulo to announce major nationwide investments by the Vidanta Hotel Group, including an undisclosed location in the Rivera Maya. The tourism industry provides 3 million jobs nationally… Incidentally, Vidanta and Catalonia hotel groups placed high among the 100 best places to work nationally with the Catalonia sites – there is one in Puerto Aventuras – arning the 18th, 36th and 38th positions while Vidanta came in 5th. The local Catalonia Hotel and Spa ranked 18th and has 326 employees… Founders Park Beach in Playa del Carmen will become the first beach in the municipality to be “smoke-free” according to the Federal Commission for the Protection against Sanitary Risk (Cofepris). San Martin Beach in Cozumel was the first county beach to become smoke free… Car leasing spokesmen were saying their business reached 55 percent of capacity this year, indicating, as have retailers, that while the the number of tourists was up, their spending was down, even with a favorable exchange rate… The Mexican Senate has approved, 78-20, the carrying of weapons in national territory by foreign immigration, customs and security agents. The measure now goes to the House for a vote… More than 40 vendors of food and clothing along area beaches were shut down and fined during the holiday period for operating without proper permits and ignoring sanitary requirements… Playa del Carmen street musicians previously banned from performing on beaches are asking that they be allowed back on the beach to resurrect a drop in income the ban has caused in the past… A 90 percent occupancy rate was reported for the area’s 40,000 hotel rooms over the holiday period, a 3 percent increase over last season. Occupancy is expected to drop until early summer when it will spike again for the domestic tourist season… Playa del Carmen is short 100 policemen, say officials there. That’s because half of the training class drops out for various reasons before finishing the course. Expect an open enrollment period soon for new recruits…
Library seeks new volunteers,
announces more book additions
By Lucille Renaud,
The Puerto Aventuras Library is looking for several new full-time resident volunteers to work for two hours one day a week in the afternoon. We are open between 2:30-4:30 P.M. Mondays through Fridays when school is in session. Once school is out in June, the library opens on Wednesdays only.
The library is located in the Colegio’s Puerto Aventura Marina-side. If you are interested in volunteering, please contact Linda Gosslin via email at [email protected]. The library is an educational and entertaining community resource that serves PA, Paamul, Akumal and the entire Riviera Maya.
In other news, the library has received and shelved many new titles in English and Spanish since January. In the following categories, here is a sample of the books added for titles published since 2010: Young Adult – 90; Middle Grade – 14; Fiction – 66 and Non-fiction – 28.
Donated new young adult titles include book collections by authors like Emma Pass, Veronica Rossi, Kimberly Derting, Suzanne Collins and Thomas Sniegoski among others. The new shelves for young-adult and middle-grade titles are expanding weekly with more and more options for our young reading enthusiasts.
The new Young Adult Book Club is also meeting monthly and discussing a variety of titles as a group. For more information, feel free to contact Elle at [email protected].
New lifetime memberships are available for $100 pesos. Please remember to return borrowed books you may have at home. No fee for late returns. Used books are available for $10 pesos at the Library and at the Latitude 20 Restaurant. All funds collected support maintenance of the library.
‘Baltimore Oriole’ is not only
a professional baseball team
By Gayle Sandholm
It has been a good birding year in Puerto Aventuras. My count includes 65 different birds in Puerto alone. 10% of these have been orioles: Orange, Hooded, Orchard, Altamira, Yellow-backed and Baltimore.
‘How sweet it is’ seeing these brightly colored orange or yellow, black with white bar winged beauties in a dark green tree or palm with a deep blue sky behind. And the Rivera Maya hosts these colorful birds in 8 varieties. Males vary in color from bright orange to yellow to reddish brown. Females are yellow, though the color is less intense.
The wings are black with white bars. The Orange, Hooded, Altamira and Yellow-backed have brightly colored heads with black bibs below their beak. The Orchard and Baltimore have black heads. Often several different kinds of orioles are seen together. These “brightly colored blackbirds” have stout, fairly long, sharply pointed bills.
In contrast to many other birds, orioles can open their bills with a strength to force open gaps to obtain hidden food. They eat insects, fruit and nectar. They are often seen in newly blossoming trees which attract flies, bees and other insects. One half an orange placed on a bird feeder will often be found by an oriole or two.
Their nests are woven cups or pouches of plant fibers hanging conspicuously under tree branches. I recall seeing numerous of these nests hanging in trees on the highway from Tulum to Coba.
The Baltimore Oriole migrates longer distances north in the spring. The Orchard migrates a shorter distance to higher elevations in Mexico to breed. The others may be seen here year round. And, the Orange Oriole (Turpial Yucateo in Spanish) is a real local, found only in the Yucatan and occasionally northern Belize. It joins several other birds which are to be found only in Mexico’s Yucatan.
Lagoon residents seek advice
to rid water of lingering algae
Residents along the Kantenah Lagoon adjacent to the Catalonia Hotel are seeking a way to rid lagoon waters of the unusual amount of sargassum weed concentrated where the lagoon ends. Some residents wonder if barrier work by the Catalonia Hotel to preserve its beach could be affecting the flow of sargassum, since long-time residents abutting the lagoon say they’ve never seen such a pervasive invasion,
Lagoon waters are evidently in the federal maritime zone and it is a given the federal government isn’t going to pay workers to remove the foul smelling weed from the lagoon. There was a similar pile-up of sargassum at the caleta in Phase 4 a few weeks ago, but it disappeared, either by sinking or being carried out by outgoing currents and/or tidal flow.
As the residents seek advice, it is worth mentioning that hotels, condos and private homeowners all along Fatima Bay beaches have been paying labor to remove the recurring waves of algae all along the shoreline. In Playa del Carmen, there have been multiple reports of workers removing many tons of the algae from beaches there.
Perhaps a meeting of Catalonia and Colonos officials and lagoon-side residents could be arranged in an attempt to reach a solution. Meanwhile, below is a primer on the ebb and flow of sargassum from the sea and the Gulf of Mexico.
Rotating currents and sargassum
By Melissa Gaskill,
(in Alert Diver Online Magazine)
The Sargasso Sea, a 1.5-million-square-mile circle of ocean filled with vast rafts of free-floating algae, occupies the North Atlantic Subtropical Gyre, a large system of rotating currents within the Atlantic. The Sargasso Sea is bounded by the Gulf Stream, the North Atlantic current, the Canary Current and the North Atlantic Equatorial Current, and it has inspired ancient poets, mariners’ tales, 20th-century science fiction and even music videos. “Sailing ships were afraid of becoming trapped in it,” said Larry McKinney, executive director of the Harte Research institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi. “I’ve been in sargassum mats so thick … the size of 10 football fields, I could almost imagine that happening.”
Far from being hazardous, sargassum plays a significant role in the marine ecosystem, providing a variety of habitats that include resting, feeding and breeding areas for many species. The young of four types of sea turtles — loggerhead, hawksbill, Kemp’s ridley and green — hide from predators in the mats and eat both the algae and creatures that live in it. (They and other creatures also eat plastic bits that collect in the mats, sometimes with deadly consequences.)
More thqnn 100 species of fish spawn in the Sargasso Sea, including white marlin, porbeagle shark, dolphinfish and eels, and the mats shelter larval forms of billfish, flying fish and many other species. More than 150 invertebrates are associated with sargassum. Ten species endemic to the environment (which include fish, mollusks and crustaceans) are camouflaged to match the surroundings. The sargassumfish even has modified fins that allow it to crawl through the seaweed.
McKinney likens sargassum to a huge, moving nursery for open-water megafauna. “Inshore, these organisms hide and grow in wetlands, bays and estuaries, and sargassum plays that role out in the open ocean,” he said. “You have transients — the juveniles that hide there to grow and then move into the open ocean. You have resident populations, which have evolved together with the algae over millions of years. And hanging around the edges of these mats are the predators, waiting to pounce on anything that comes out.”
Humpback whales pass through the Sargasso Sea on their annual migrations, as do birds and commercially valuable fish such as tuna, all depending on it for food. Particulate rains from sargassum mats to nourish creatures in the ocean’s depths; depending on when and where mats sink, they may represent the bulk of that marine snow. “The open sea is like a desert, and sargassum is an oasis in that desert,” said Blair Witherington, a research scientist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute.
The algae is even an important part of coastal ecosystems. Wind blows it onto beaches, where it helps anchor sand and contributes nutrients. While other seaweeds reproduce and begin life on the seafloor, sargassum floats and grows vegetatively, with new mats produced from parts of the parent organism rather than from seeds or spores. “That makes the Sargasso Sea essentially one enormous super-organism,” Witheringon said.
According to a 2008 study, most new growth in the Sargasso Sea occurs in the northwest Gulf of Mexico, where sargassum grows rapidly in the spring. It then travels via the Loop Current into the Atlantic, where it accumulates in the gyre. The Gulf produces about a million tons of sargassum a year, McKinney said, and at any given time between 4.5 and 12 million tons of it bob in the Gulf and Atlantic. An individual mat lives about a year or possibly two, starting out bright orange and gradually becoming brown as it ages. It eventually loses its buoyancy and sinks.
Sargassum’s abundance waxes and wanes and can be hard to measure; storms sink it, currents break it up and move it, and nutrients make it grow. Some worry that it is in decline, but McKinney said there is little scientific evidence of that. A recent study analyzed images from the Medium Resolution Imaging Spectrometer (MERIS), a satellite launched by the European Space Agency, to measure abundance of sargassum from 2002 to 2008. The images showed an increased abundance in 2008 compared to 2002 and a maximum abundance in 2005.
That could change, however. As recently as the late 1990s, tons of sargassum were harvested for use in animal feed and as fertilizer. Given its importance as habitat, the U.S. South Atlantic Fishery Management Council set a commercial annual catch limit of 5,000 pounds and prohibited harvesting within 100 miles of shore, effectively halting commercial harvesting. However, the council’s authority only covers U.S. waters off North and South Carolina, Georgia and eastern Florida.
Elsewhere in the U.S. and on the high seas, where most sargassum is found, the algae has no protection. The Sargasso Sea Alliance, a collaboration led by the government of Bermuda and including the World Wildlife Fund, Sylvia Earle’s Mission Blue and the Marine Conservation Institute, is working on a mechanism to protect and manage what it calls “the golden floating rainforest.” New potential uses for sargassum, including pharmaceuticals and biofuel, make the need to protect it more urgent, as do increasing threats such as climate change, ship traffic and pollution.
Those who have been diving around mats of sargassum say they make excellent dive sites because of the many critters living in them and the predators that hang out around them. “Diving under sargassum is like diving in another world,” said Billy Causey, Southeast Regional Director for NOAA’s Office of Marine Sanctuaries. “If you can’t get out on a reef, it’s just as good.”
Fish Species Found in Sargassum (Transient and Resident) include Jacks (rainbow runners, almaco jacks, banded rudderfish, greater and lesser amberjack, round scad, bar jack, hardtail, jack crevalle and Atlantic bumper), white mullet, flying fish, tripletail, cobia, dolphinfish, vermilion snappers, swordfish, pipefish, scrawled filefish, gray triggerfish, sargassumfish, barracudas, mackerels, tunas and billfishes