Sargassum Barrier Survey Results
July 17, 2023
Invitations to complete an online survey of attitudes about the Half Moon Bay sargassum barrier were emailed to 165 Vecinos members on July 6, 2023.
- The survey was open from July 6 to July 14, 2023.
- Responses were anonymous, but completing the survey required logging into the Vecinos website to ensure eligibility and prevent duplicates.
- The survey measures perception, not reality. Results depend on both the circumstances that existed at the time the survey was fielded (e.g., the southern section of the barrier was not functioning) and the truthfulness of responses.
Vecinos is neutral on the barrier and intends to remain so. The survey was launched as a community service to help neighbors understand how other neighbors think. Our hope is that these results will illuminate some of the factors that underlie disagreements and lead to a productive dialog on these important issues that helps the community come together. We invite you to discuss the barrier, the survey, and related issues on the Community Forums area of the Vecinos website by clicking here.
Who responded to the survey?
There were 76 completed surveys submitted.
- Responses were received from 46% of all eligible owners and 58% of owners who opened the first announcement email.
- The sample has a good balance of owners of various types: donors and non-donors, renters and non-renters, various property types and locations, and the amount of time owners spend in Akumal each year.
- The proportions of apartamentos vs. casas, renters vs. non-renters, and donors vs. non-donors are roughly (but not exactly) aligned with what Vecinos believes to be the overall proportions.
As expected, there are sharp differences of opinion within the community about the barrier.
- Those strongly or somewhat in favor of the barrier (30 respondents - 40%) and those strongly or somewhat opposed (32 respondents - 42%) are about equal in number. But 18% are not sure, so there is no clear majority.
- More owners think that the barrier is ineffective against sargassum than effective, and more think it’s preventing turtles from nesting than not, but there are fewer extreme views and more respondents that are unsure about both its effectiveness against sargassum (32%) and its impact on turtles (30%) than are unsure about their overall opinion of the barrier (18%).
- A 63% majority of respondents object to the extension of the barrier onto the headlands, either in absolute or if affected owners have not agreed. But if agreement from affected owners was in place, a 61% majority would support it. Please note that the test version of the headlands extension in place today is 100 meters, not 250 meters as was illustrated on the map the barrier committee published and was stated in the survey question as a result.
- A 39% plurality of respondents want to see studies showing whether the barrier works and doesn't harm turtles before deciding how to proceed, compared to 29% who want it removed immediately and 32% who want it to remain in place and undergo continuous adjustment to make it as effective as possible.
- With objective studies in place, community sentiment would become a consensus of greater than two to one, either in favor or opposed. Getting such studies done could therefore be a key part of the community finding a unifying path forward.
Attitudes toward the barrier by owner type
The robust mix of owner types in the sample makes it possible to dig into which types of owners oppose the barrier, support it, and are unsure.
- Donating to the barrier indicates support for it in the past, which unsurprisingly ties to support today. Of the 30 respondents who reported being strongly or somewhat in favor of the barrier, 29 were donors. However, some donors are no longer supportive. Seven of the 36 donors (20%) now report that they are not sure whether they support the barrier (14%) or are somewhat opposed to it (6%).
- Owners who rent to visitors, which often ties to living in Akumal less than 2 months a year, are the most supportive of the barrier, and owners who don’t rent to visitors, which usually ties to living in Akumal full-time, are most opposed.
- Owning property on the bay is tied somewhat to support, but not as strongly as renting.
- The community is split on attitudes about the barrier, but opinions may shift in the future because most owners are uncertain or hold moderate opinions about whether the barrier is effective against sargassum or safe for turtles.
- The opinion split is most dramatic between full-time residents who don’t rent, who are most opposed, and owners who rent and live in Akumal less than two months a year, who are most in favor.
- Clear, objective studies that demonstrate the performance of the barrier against sargassum and its effect on turtles would result in a much clearer community consensus on the way forward.
Appendix: Detailed results and verbatim comments
Detailed results tables