Science

Palau, a Pacific archipelago, bans sunscreen to protect its corals

Scientific studies would establish that the chemical components contained in most sunscreens are toxic to corals, even in small doses.

A ban on sun creams toxic to the environment has been in effect since Wednesday in Palau, Pacific archipelago, in order to protect its corals and one of the most important marine sanctuaries in the world . “We must live and respect the environment because it is the cradle of life, and without it, no one in Palau will be able to survive,” said Palau president Tommy Remengesau.

Palau , located in the Pacific roughly between Australia and Japan, is renowned for the richness of its marine life, and considered one of the most beautiful destinations for diving. The archipelago government is, however, concerned about the negative consequences for its environment of the popularity of its hundreds of islands among tourists . Scientific studies have clearly established, according to Tommy Remengesau, that the chemical components contained in most sunscreens are toxic to corals, even in small doses.

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Photo credit: Google map screenshot

Fine of 1 000 dollars

The high concentration of tourists in the archipelago, and therefore sunscreen, could damage irreparably these corals. Consequently, any sunscreen containing this kind of toxic product is now prohibited for import and sale, under penalty of confiscation and a fine of 1 000 dollars. “We don't mind being the first country to ban these chemicals, and we'll do whatever it takes to make this known. With better education and awareness, other governments will have enough confidence to take the necessary measures, “said Tommy Remengesau.

Palau has also decided to widen the protection zone of his sanctuary seafarer, by closing 80% of its economic zone exclusive to any maritime or fishing activity, including mining. This decision is equivalent to prohibiting all commercial fishing activity on approximately 500 000 km² of ocean , explained the president of this archipelago. This new legislation also provides that foreign fishing fleets land their catch in Palau before paying an export tax, in order to protect local fishermen.

Tommy Remengesau justified this decision by explaining that he was necessary to let the ocean “heal its wounds” after years of intensive commercial fishing which drastically reduced certain fish stocks, including those of bluefin tuna.

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