Less sunscreen, more coral

Photo: National Geographic

It is ‘high season’ and the island is full of tourists seeking the sun. Bonaire is the number 1 shore dive location in the world so that’s why about half of all visitors to Bonaire come especially for diving.

Gloriously the title “divers paradise” shines on all license plates on the island. Turtles swimming past you, hundreds of fish crawling through the water and beautiful coral attracts attention at the bottom of the ocean. Breathtaking.

Unfortunately, there is 1 major threat to the reef: Sunscreen. Some types of sunscreen contain the chemical substance oxybenzon which is harmful to the coral. Not only plastic in the ocean is a culprit, an innocent substance like sunscreen also destroys a lot.

According to a study from 2015 that was published in the scientific publication Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology, about 14,000 tons of sun lotion every year, arrives in coral reefs. Both by swimmers and by discharges from wastewater treatment plants.

Damaged coral. Photo: ABC

In Hawaii they have reached the stage that since May a bill has been approved for a ban on the sale of sun creams containing oxybenzone and octinoxate. But not only Hawaii is doing well, Bonaire has also adopted a motion to ban the damaging sunscreen. The ban will start on 1 January 2021. Still, until that time it is possible to buy the damaging sunscreen on the island. Also, selling the sunscreen will be forbidden on the island, but there’s still the possibility of taking sunscreen with you from your own country, containing the damaging substance.

Global warming

Not only sunscreen is a major culprit, also the warming of the ocean causes “bleaching” of the coral. The algae that color the coral are pulled away from the coral by the rising temperature of the water.

You will now wonder what you have to do to protect your skin from the burning rays of the tropical sun. There are various other possibilities for this. You can wear more clothes or go into the shade more often. Especially during snorkeling or swimming, it is advisable to wear a wetsuit or rashguard with long sleeves. If you still want to tan without clothing, pay attention to whether the sunscreen does not contain oxybenzon. Also waterproof sunscreens with this harmful substance give this to the water.

Everyone should be able to enjoy the azure water and the beautiful underwater world of the Caribbean Sea. American researchers already warned us in 2016 that 90 per cent of the coral reefs could disappear as a result of bleaching by 2050 if climate change continues. If we also continue to use the harmful sun creams, it is quickly done with the breathtaking reef.

Pay a little more attention to the wonderful creatures Mother Nature has to offer you. Together we can ensure that we can still enjoy the reef in 2050.

Photo: YouTube

Island Council decides to ban harmful products
The island council in the meantime has decided to implement a partial ban on certain type of sunscreen. Read more about the impending ban in Bonaire in the following link:
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