Did you know that around 75% of the world’s coral species are found in Raja Ampat? Moreover, Raja Ampat’s waters are remote, protected, and biologically productive, making it one of the best places to encounter lush coral walls that gradually drop off from 5 to 900 feet!
It’s no secret that the world’s coral reefs are in serious trouble. Scientists predict that without drastic ACTION nearly all of these ecosystems could be gone by 2050.
Why are coral reefs so important?
- Coral reefs protect coastlines from storms.
- They provide billions of dollars’ worth of food and jobs every year to people around the world.
- Coral reefs also help to improve the surrounding water quality. They act as a kind of filter that traps things floating in the water, which makes for cleaner water all around.
- Coral reefs are second only to rainforests in biodiversity of species.
- Coral reefs contain 25% of the world’s marine fish species.
- Reefs are where many fish and sea creatures choose to spawn. The protection of the reef means eggs will be safe from predators.
“Occupying less than one percent of the ocean floor, coral reefs are home to more than twenty-five percent of marine life.”
Saving the world’s coral reefs and curbing their demise, however, starts on dry land with us. You and me and the informed choices we need to make every day… One such a decision is choosing reef safe sunscreen.
Why choose reef safe sunscreen
It is estimated that globally between 6,000 and 14,000 tons of sunscreen wash off people and into reef areas each year.
What is indisputable is that reefs are critical to ocean life. And while it is agreed there are multiple factors at play contributing to the decimation, reefs around the world need to be protected.
You’ll lessen your environmental impact by using a sunscreen that skips ingredients known to be harmful to reefs in large quantities. In particular, some sunscreen ingredients enhance viruses to destroy corals faster – leading to bleaching, according to a 2008 paper published by Danovaro.
Other effects caused by ingredients in sunscreen include DNA damage and most alarmingly, some chemicals disrupt coral larvae and cause the corals’ outer skin cells to turn into bone.
Nevertheless, there is a small but growing movement around the world to ban sunscreens containing harmful chemicals from reef areas. The two pioneers are Hawaii and Palau.
It is also imperative to keep in mind that even if you are far from reefs, what washes off your body in the ocean (or even the shower) can make its way into the ecosystem.
How to choose reef safe sunscreen
Several common ingredients in sunscreens can be harmful to reefs and other sea life.
Although no sunscreen has been proven totally safe for aquatic wildlife—wearing a rash guard or other protective clothing while you snorkel is the best choice for coral as well as for your skin—some formulas are friendlier than others.
Check labels on sunscreen products
According to our research, the top ingredients used for ‘reef safe’ sunscreens are non-nano zinc and non-nano titanium dioxide. Nano refers to particles under a hundred nanometers and can be bad news for marine life that ingests them (shrimp etc.)
This common UV-stopping ingredient has been the epicentre of discussion and found to help viruses damage coral more quickly. Ensure there is NO oxybenzone in any products you buy.
Oxybenzone is also potentially dangerous to humans. The chemical is readily absorbed by the skin and can cause hormone problems and cellular mutations, according to research by the Environmental Working Group.
Get water resistant:
All sunscreens will wash off in water, but the better they are at sticking to your skin, the less of it will wind up in the ocean.
Opt for lotion, not spray:
Each time you use a spray sunscreen at the beach, some ends up on the sand, which in turn ends up in the ocean. Most mineral sunscreens are lotions, anyway.
These preservatives are another virus-assisting reef-bleaching culprit. Sunscreens with parabens can be hard to identify, as parabens are often not listed in the ingredients. If a sunscreen advertises aloe or another plant component, it likely contains preservatives needed to keep that plant fresh.
The bottom line still stands: Protect your skin– after all, it’s your largest organ… But start making conscious decisions on the products you buy and start doing research on possible chemicals and effects on the ocean and environment.
Our resort supports reef safe practices and strongly advise you to bring sunscreen that does not include harmful ingredients such as oxybenzone, butylparaden, homosalate, octinoxate and octisalate, in order to minimise the harmful effects on the most biodiverse waters in the world.
Your visit as a snorkeler or scuba diver helps demonstrate the global importance and economic value of Raja Ampat through supporting sustainable tourism operators and practices. The park fees you pay also provide direct support to conservation, and the money you bring to the region helps empower local communities to become custodians of conservation.
We would love to hear your take on reef safe sunscreen. Let us know on our Facebook Page