The Nature Foundation St Maarten Encourages Residents, Tourists and Tour Operators to Use and Promote Coral Safe Sunscreens.

bleached coral

Sunscreens with the UV-filter oxybenzone are bad for the country’s coral, therefore the Nature Foundation is asking all residents, tour operators, businesses and especially water sport users to use and promote reef safe sunscreens.

A number of studies have shown that sunscreen and certain individual components of sunscreen can have negative effects on corals and other marine organisms. The chemical UV-filter oxybenzone has been studied most intensively and negative effects have been described such as bleaching of corals, damage and deformation of coral larvae and damage to the DNA of corals and their reproductive success.

“Our coral reefs are already facing many serious threats for their survival; climate change, overfishing and eutrophication are the main causes of the degradation of reefs all around the globe. Added chemicals such as UV-filters from sunscreens will add to the problems of the already stressed reefs and will decrease their resilience toward global warming and hurricane impacts”, stated the Nature Foundation.

Recently, partners on Bonaire also started an important awareness campaign about the harmful impacts of sunscreen on coral reefs. These negative impacts are also occurring on St Maarten. Fortunately, some local businesses are already moving to reef safe sunscreens, for example, Coconut Reef Power Boat Tours and Charters informs all their guests about the negative impacts of these sunscreen and also offer them an environmental friendly alternative through their partnership with ‘Raw Elements USA’. The Scuba Shop already carries a large selection of “reef-safe” sunscreen products. The Nature Foundation applauds these initiatives and hopes the other water sport operators will start to use coral-friendly sunscreens.

“Residents and tour operators can follow several steps to reduce the impacts of sunscreens on our reefs and forward the message to their customers:

  • please avoid sunscreens with oxybenzone,
  • use sunscreens with a combination of zinc and titanium,
  • use lotions not sprays,
  • apply sunscreen at least 30 minutes before entering the water and avoid sunscreen factors above 50.

We can recommend to use Coral Isles sunscreen, which is distributed on our island. It is a reef-friendly sunscreen which has no negative impacts on coral reefs while at the same time provides excellent sun protection”, recommended Melanie Meijer zu Schlochtern Nature Foundation Projects Officer.

The Nature Foundation urges water sports users, especially divers and snorkelers, to move to reef-safe sunscreens. The coral reefs of Sint Maarten, especially in the Man of War Shoal Marine Protected Area, contribute significantly to the economy of Sint Maarten and all steps should be taken by the community to protect this very important resource.