Craig Downs: Coral Reef Rescue

Visitors to the Hawaiian island of Oahu marvel at the splendor of Hanauma Bay, a volcanic crater teeming with coral reefs, tropical fish, and the occasional sea turtle. But there’s something else that the snorkelers may notice as they enjoy the bright colors of a local rainbow-hued parrot fish. Upon the surface of the water floats a colorful oily film, deposited there from the bodies of the 3000 visitors who descend upon the state park everyday. That works out to approximately a million swimmers per year. If each of those people applies a half-ounce to an ounce of sunscreen before mingling with the marine life there, that’s literally hundreds of gallons of sunscreen a day being poured into the small bay. One imagines that all those chemicals must have an impact on the health of that fragile ecosystem. Well, our guest today on Sea Change Radio, Craig Downs, is the Executive Director of Haereticus Environmental Laboratory. His organization’s research established just how detrimental common sunscreen ingredients are to coral reefs and the findings helped lead to a recent ban on these ingredients across the entire state of Hawaii. We talk today about what the offending chemicals do, the particulars of the new legislation, and whether we can expect other jurisdictions to follow suit.