Coral Reef Safe Excursion
We've aligned our snorkel excursions to be Coral Reef Safe. What this means is that we have organized a short but important training that explains:
(1) The damage that has been happening around the world
(2) Current efforts to restore
(3) What you can do to help the effort
Protecting Our Reefs
Our coral reefs are amazing and beautiful exploration opportunity. While they are teaming with life, they also have a delicate balance to their existence. Lately many reefs have been struggling from a combination of disease, pollution, and environmental change. While destruction from hurricanes and disease are naturally occurring events, they can still have a significant impact on the reef taking years to recover.
Pollution from sunscreen is one of the biggest culprits to damaging these delicate ecosystems. Sunscreens containing oxybenzone and octinoxate are the biggest concern, however there is more to the story. Even when a sunscreen is labeled “Reef Safe” it may not be completely true. There is currently no standard definition for what “Reef Safe” means.
An estimated 14,000 tons of sunscreen wash into reefs around the globe each year. Research is finding the highest concentrations around dive, snorkel, and swim spots. Research by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) found that these toxins weaken or stress the immune systems of the coral. In turn, it can lead to bleaching, a disease that strips color out of the coral.
Ocean temperatures above 81.7° F (31 °C) usually cause bleaching. When oxybenezone is present, the coral bleach at 78° F. So climate change along with sunscreen are two issues that when combined further undermine coral from thriving.
In 2015 Research by Haereticus Environmental Laboratory conducted testing at different reefs around Hawaii and the USVI. Trunk Bay, on St. John, USVI was found to have the highest concentration of oxybenzone at 1.4 parts per million. They also toxicity effect in concentrations as low as 62 parts per trillion. https://haereticus-lab.org/sunscreen-chemical-threatens-coral-reefs/
We also reach the limits of what science knows, meaning if there has been no research on a particular sunscreen ingredient to prove it is safe or unsafe for the reef, then does this mean it is safe? In other words, ignorance of the law is not excuse.
Concentration of the ingredient in the area is also an important factor. Even in low concentrations, the sunscreen ingredients can have an impact on the marine life. Less harmful options include mineral based sunscreens. Here is a great article on reef safe sunscreen by Consumer Reports.
How to Protect The Reef
So, how do we do to protect ourselves and our environment? First step is to focus on dressing appropriately. Clothing can do a lot to protect our skin from the sun. It is also inert and doesn’t wash off. We are not advocating for full body coverage, but whatever is covered by clothing also doesn’t require sunscreen. Second, minimal sunscreen for those areas not covered. Last, choose a sunscreen that is environmentally friendly. Below are some sunscreen products that are coral reef safe, you can order directly from Amazon.
What We Do
In an effort to reduce the environmental impact of our excursions, we’ve established a program to:
- We work with all clients to help them make informed decisions on sunscreen selection
- All our boats have sunscreen that is known to minimize damage to the reefs
- Training in advance on how to protect the coral while snorkeling or diving
- Some of the proceeds go to fund further research and reef restoration