PHILIPSBURG:--- Sunscreens used to protect yourself when sunbathing, that contain UV-filter oxybenzone, are bad for the destination’s coral, according to information released by the St. Maarten Nature Foundation.
The Nature Foundation, therefore, is asking all tour operators, residents and water sports users to use and promote reef safe sunscreens.
The Nature Foundation says that 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 foundation adds that 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.
Some local businesses are already moving to reef safe sunscreens.
“Our coral reefs are part of the national economy. The dive sector contributes significantly to the Gross Domestic Product of the country on an annual basis, and therefore, we must take measures to protect our reefs from any negative impacts.
“Our visitors come to enjoy our natural environment, our beaches, below and above the water, and much more. I endorse the call made by the Nature Foundation about using coral safe sunscreen.
“We are custodians of our natural environment for future generations and must contribute to the protection and not destruction of our environment.
“I also appeal to water-oriented tourism businesses as well as the populace to use and promote the use of coral reef safe sunscreens.
“This practice must start at home and become a daily chore. At the same time, I commend those businesses who have taken the lead to sell reef safe sunscreens.
“We need innovative business thinking to drive our economy forward in an environmentally and sustainable manner during the phase of building back better,” Minister of Tourism & Economic Affairs Stuart Johnson said on Tuesday.
The St. Maarten Nature Foundation recommends tour operators and residents to follow several steps in order to reduce the impacts of sunscreens on our reefs: 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.