Palau, the paradise island of Micronesia, will ban the use of “reef-toxic” sunscreens in 2020 to protect the world’s favorite corals from divers around the world.
The tiny western Pacific nation, roughly halfway between Australia and Japan, is considered one of the best diving spots on the planet, but the government fears that the craze will have a cost to the delicate environment.
A spokesman for President Tommy Remengesau explained that scientific research has shown that the chemicals used in most sunscreens are toxic to coral, even in small doses.
Palau’s dive site hosts an average of four hourly crowded tourist boats, making the authorities fear that the reefs are at the point of no return.
“It’s equivalent to liter of sunscreen every day that goes into the sea in the famous spots for diving and snorkeling,” he told reporters. “We’re looking at what we can do to prevent pollution from entering the environment.”
Creams “toxic for reefs” will be banned from January 1, 2020, according to a law passed last week. Anyone importing or selling such creams will be liable to a fine of $ 1,000. Tourists will be confiscated their tubes of cream on arrival.
The US state of Hawaii has announced a similar ban in May, which will come into effect in 2021.
The ban on Palau concerns products containing oxybenzone, octocrylene and parabens, which are those of most major brands.
Palau is a pioneer in marine protection. The archipelago had created the world’s first shark sanctuary in 2009, which had the effect of banning fishing in its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of 630,000 square kilometers.
Since December 2017, tourists have been forced by the archipelago authorities to commit to respecting the environment and taking an oath.
Palau was once a confidential destination for connoisseurs. But in recent years, the number of tourists has exploded, putting pressure on both infrastructure and the landscape. In 2016, the archipelago welcomed 150,000 tourists, up 70% from 2010.
Craig Downs, General Manager of Hawaii’s Haereticus Environmental Laboratory, welcomed the decision.
“I think it’s the first country to ban these chemicals from the tourism sector. They do not want to become like Thailand, the Philippines or Indonesia, where they had to close beaches. The coral reefs of these beaches are dead.
Jared Elliot was born and raised in San Francisco. He has contributed to Discovery Magazine, Cottage Country Magazine and Tech Insider. As a journalist for Valley Post Express, Jared mostly covers national news. Aside from earning a living as a freelance journalist, Jared also spends much of his time training for ultra running.