Coral reefs around the world are dying. In fact, some experts estimate that almost 25% of coral reefs are already irreversibly damaged. For many years, vacationers have been able to avoid and ignore this disaster, but not anymore. Many of the most popular family vacation spots are in danger of losing their popular reefs that draw in so many tourists. Below is a list of four popular destinations for families, along with a brief history on their relationship with coral reefs — plus, how you can help prevent further damage.
Hawaii is home to 80% of coral reefs in the United States. Hawaii’s Big Island has the largest coral reef in the state, and scientists have found that its coral reefs are dying at an alarming rate. So they’re doing something about it — the state of Hawaii passed a bill on April 27, 2018 to ban the sale and use of sunscreen with the chemical oxybenzone. Which means that if you’re vacationing in Hawaii, you need to make sure you are using mineral sunscreen — it’s the law.
The Great Barrier Reef is protected as a World Heritage Area, and is home to more than 600 species of coral. Within the last 27 years, it’s experienced 50% loss of coral coverage due to human impact. While Australia may feel far away, the impact of the Great Barrier Reef cannot be understated. Not only is it the largest reef, it is home to more than 1500 species of fish and 400 species of coral.
The beautiful waters of the Caribbean are home to more than 65 species of coral. Researchers found that coral in heavily trafficked beaches is dead or bleached, while less touristy areas still held healthy coral. The lesson of this research is important: the more contact humans have with coral reefs, the less healthy these organisms will be.
Coral reefs in Florida are dying at an alarming rate from disease and bleaching. These reefs not only provide tourism to the area, but also provide hurricane protection and a home to many species of marine life.
So how can you positively impact these beautiful beaches?
There are many causes of coral bleaching, but there is one easy switch that can lessen your impact on your favorite coral reefs. Switching from chemical-filled, traditional sunscreen to mineral sunscreen is not only better for your health, but for your favorite beaches.
Avoid sunscreens that contain oxybenzone — it’s that simple. Even if you don’t live in these areas, don't visit them often, or perhaps have never visited them doesn’t mean you don’t affect their health and vice versa.
Mineral sunscreens are biodegradable and leave no impact on coral reef systems, which make them a great alternative to harmful, chemical-ridden sunblocks. By making the switch to mineral sunscreen, you can protect yourself from harmful rays and protect your favorite family vacation spot from coral damage.