Palau is to introduce the world's first ban on sunscreen chemicals to protect its famed corals.
In an attempt to protect the coral reefs that divers so admire they have dubbed them the underwater Serengeti, the Pacific nation of Palau will soon ban many types of sunscreen.
Palau, which lies in the western Pacific about halfway between Australia and Japan, is regarded as one of the world's best diving destinations, but the government is concerned its popularity is coming at a cost.
The main issue stems around Palau's dive sites, which can see four boats an hour taking tourists to see the reef.
"Any given day, that would equate to three or five gallons of sunscreen into the ocean and Palau's famous dive spots, snorkelling, biodiversity and coral".
Your opinion is valuable. It passed a law this week banning sunscreens that contain any one of ten chemicals, including oxybenzone and octinoxate, which are the same chemicals targeted in Hawaii's chemical sunscreen ban earlier this year.
The ban will come into effect on January 1, 2020. Banned sunscreens will be confiscated from tourists who carry them into the country, and merchants selling the banned products will be fined up to $1,000. It is not the first to be announced - Hawaii did so in May this year - but as their ban will not start until 2021, Palau will be the first nation to try to get rid of these harmful sunscreens.
It has also banned commercial fishing from its waters and a year ago introduced the "Palau Pledge" requiring global visitors to sign a promise stamped into their passport that they will respect the environment. "Haereticus Environmental Laboratory says that oxybenzone is harmful to all mammals".
"It's the first country to ban these chemicals from tourism".
"They don't want to be like Thailand, the Philippines and Indonesia, where they've had to shut down beaches".
"There's also been nearly a dozen papers that look at the concentration of these chemicals in the ocean, along coastal areas, along certain coral reefs".
Scientists have found that some chemicals in sunscreen can be toxic to coral reefs, which are a vital part of the ocean ecosystem as well as a popular draw for tourists.
Downs called on sunscreen manufacturers to "step up and innovate", saying the chemicals used for UV protection had been largely unchanged for 50 years. Fortunately there are more and more non-chemical sunscreens available that use physical blocks, such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, rather than chemical ones; so it's still possible to slather up without hurting the environment as much - that is, as long as the sunscreen doesn't come in plastic bottles!