Sunscreen Chemicals Dangerous to Corals

Sunscreen, coral bleaching

On the left is normal coral; on the right is bleached coral after exposure to sunscreen

 

I see divers and snorkelers slathering on sunscreen every time I go out on the Sea Rovers’ boats. Since there are only a limited number of dive sites at Menjangan and here in Pemuteran, it really worries me about the impact these chemicals may be having on the reefs. Here are some excerpts from an article from National Geographic and PADI. Click on the links if you want to read them in full.

The sunscreen that you dutifully slather on before a swim on the beach may be protecting your body—but a new study finds that the chemicals are also killing coral reefs worldwide.

Four commonly found sunscreen ingredients can awaken dormant viruses in the symbiotic algae called zooxanthellae that live inside reef-building coral species. Even low levels of sunscreen, at or below the typical amount used by swimmers, could activate the algae viruses and completely bleach coral in just four days, the results showed.

The researchers estimate that 4,000 to 6,000 metric tons of sunscreen wash off swimmers annually in oceans worldwide, and that up to 10 percent of coral reefs are threatened by sunscreen-induced bleaching.

So what’s a diver (or snorkeler) to do?

When it comes to sunscreen, any natural product (organic, biodegradeable etc) is better for the environment then the conventional one. Look for a brand that uses physical sunblocks such as titanium dioxide and zinc oxide instead of chemical ones.

Read the label. A product advertising itself as “reef safe” doesn’t necessarily mean what it says. Always look at ingredient lists to make sure reef-damaging substances (such as oxybenzone, butylparaben, octinoxate and 4-methylbenzylidine camphor, all of which have been shown to cause coral bleaching even at low levels) aren’t included.

Apply sunscreen at least 10-15 minutes before going in the water so that the lotion absorbs into your skin.

 

Now that you’re ready to make the switch to coral reef safe sunscreen (and human-safe), consider the 10 options below, all of which have a “1” rating from the EWG, and positive reviews from online consumers. The products below are not officially endorsed by PADI or Project AWARE; however, if you are reading this article in the United States and make a purchase by clicking a link below, a portion of your purchase will go to Project AWARE via the Amazon Associates program.

  1. Aubrey Organics Natural Sun Sunscreen, Sensitive Skin/Children, SPF 30+
  2. Badger Sunscreen Cream, Unscented, SPF 30
  3. UV Natural Sport Lip Sunscreen, SPF 30+
  4. Badger Broad Spectrum Sport Facestick, SPF 35
  5. ECO logical All Natural Sunscreen, SPF 30+
  6. Elemental Herbs Sport Sunscreen, SPF 30+
  7. Green Screen D Organic Sunscreen, Original, SPF 35
  8. BurnOut Ocean Tested Physical Sunscreen, SPF 30
  9. Raw Elements USA Eco FormulaSPF 30
  10. All Terrain KidSport SPF30*

I wear a thin wetsuit or dive skin whenever I’m on the boat  (I do have a noticeable tan line that starts at my wrists; I could wear my gloves if it becomes too unsightly). I try to sit in the shade, and if I can’t, I use a towel over my head to shield my face from the sun. A broad-brimmed hat would also protect your face.

Some of the world’s problems seem so big that there’s nothing we can do; consider making this small change to do your bit to protect our precious coral reefs.

 

 

Bye Bye Plastic, Pemuteran Clean Up

Yesterday was a another day of battle in the endless war on plastic here in Pemuteran and all around Bali. #byebyeplasticbags

Village, some of the businesses and schools coming together as part of ‘Bye Bye Plastic Bags’ Bali beach clean up.

Check out the website to learn more about their efforts and how you can help. www.byebyeplasticbags.org

Junior Eco Warriors off the the Port Bow

Recent visit by the Green School out of the landlocked Port of Ubud, (http://www.greenschool.org) turned out to be a good opportunity to put the Nasty Nemo through her paces. And she handled it all with easy and space to spare.

The Green School was up on a field trip to the Biorock Project. Where they learn how to electrify coral to good effect 😉 After a morning of learning and snorkeling the projects they took a break to explore a local reef (Close Encounters) where they got to see first hand what can happen when local businesses work with the village and fishing community to help protect the local marine environment in a sustainable way.

Greeny brethren aboard the Nasty Nemo

The Next day they head out again this time to visit the Solar Powered Biorock offshore structures. The Biowreck and BioBoomer. The later named in honour of the once long time resident of the of the Turtle Project, run by my old mate Chris Brown just down the beach from us. Another longtime resident and local Eco warrior.

Where's me gloves?

Then its prepare for the beach and Mucky Pirates Bay clean up.

Avast matey, there be plastic.

DiveMaster Made and Captain Sahari lend a helping hand.

Where's the designated bag carrier?

Despite the lousy visibility everyone heads out with a modicum of enthusiasm on their perilous mission to rid our bay of marauding plastic.

Collect it all and let nothing back into the sea.

A Junior Eco Wench is Joined by Captain Botac scouring the Bay for hidden enemies amongst the fishing boats.

Mmmm... Pedas!

After a hard morning of snorkeling, diving and rescuing our beloved and now not so Mucky Pirates Bay. The lads and lasses of the Green School sit down to enjoy a well earned Nasi Bungkus.

And thus their day ends with a swift voyage home and memories of noble deeds and plastic vanquished on the shores of Pemuteran.

Garr! Guys n we be hopin’ ta seeing ye all again.

The Captain

NEW! Help us to Clean Up Pemuteran & Menjangan

After the rains the plastic has come. Trying to find away to get people involve instead of just complaining about a country wide problem that will take generations to solve. Me and the Commodore came up with this package.

Enviromental Clean Up Package, 11 Dives

2 Days Menjangan Island (Includes Lunch, Soft drinks, entry fees to TNBB and a Bin liner)
1 Day Pemuteran Reefs (including dive the Coral Bommie, Bio-wreck & Bio-boomer)
5 days Equipment Rental
1 Day Cleaning the Biorock Project
1 Day Cleaning the trash from Mucky Pirates Bay
1 x Night or Shore extra
Price €300

It won’t solve the problems of a nation, but at least we can try and keep our little corner of Indonesia that bit cleaner.

The Captain

Save our Reefs! Hug a fish today!

Sea Rovers Message in e-bottle The pirates who dive
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