Lonely Planet Writer

The Pacific nation of Palau will ban sunscreens that harm coral reefs

The Pacific island nation of Palau is a paradise made up of hundreds of pristine islands surrounded by beautiful lagoons – which is why the country is banning sunscreens believed to be toxic to coral reefs.

Damselfish swim in shallow water in Palau’s inner lagoon. Palau is known for its beautiful rock islands, prolific marine life, and world-class scuba diving and snorkelling. Image by ©Ethan Daniels/Shutterstock

Some sunscreens contain chemicals – like oxybenzone and octinoxate – which researchers have found to be damaging to the delicate marine corals. Now, the Palau government passed a law that limits the sale of the product, stating that no reef-toxic sunscreen will be manufactured, imported or sold in Palau on or after 1 January 2020. There is also a law that will specifically address travellers from outside the country bringing it in, which will not be allowed for any purpose on or after the same date. The penalty for this will be a fine of US$1000 per violation.

Aerial view of deserted tropical islands, clear blue water and coral reefs, Palau. Image by ©Ippei Naoi/Getty Images/Flickr RF

Travellers head to Palau to explore the natural beauty of the islands, and the top attraction is diving into the beautiful turquoise waters to explore the marine life. That’s why it has become very important to the island to protect what makes it special. Late last year, the country introduced the Palau Pledge – requiring visitors to sign a pledge on arrival, swearing that they would act in a way that protects the republic’s natural and cultural heritage.

Since protecting your skin from the sun is also important, there are a number of companies that make products that don’t use the chemicals found to be harmful to reefs. Hawaii recently became the first US state to pass a similar bill banning sunscreens with that harm corals. Travel companies got on board with the plan, with Hawaiian Airlines, the Waikiki Aquarium, and hotel group Aqua-Aston offering travellers eco-friendly option.

Want to protect coral reefs as you travel the world? Find out how here.