Sunscreen kills corals: Safer product for ocean made in Seychelles

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After Hawaii banned standard sunscreen, Seychelles in the Indian Ocean followed. A new environmentally safe sunscreen is being promoted by a Seychellois and two foreigners living in Seychelles in a bid to reduce the negative impact of sunscreens on coral. Louise Laing from France and husband Austin Laing from Australia together with Seychellois Sylvie Hattingh are promoting a sunscreen called ‘People4Ocean’ (P4O).

Since not many people are aware of sunscreen pollution, the two marine biologists who are living on Praslin, the second most populated island, for the past two years, decided to start the promotion campaign of the P4O sunscreen. The sunscreen was created in 2014 by the Laing couple, who has worked on coral restoration in the past in Seychelles, an archipelago in the western Indian Ocean. Both marine biologists shared from the start a strong connection to the ocean and a commitment to protecting marine life. Hattingh joined the couple after seeing how much effort they were putting into saving the reefs of Seychelles. “I feel very concerned when the rate of tourists visiting Seychelles is rising and we are not educated on the toxin entering our ocean with sunscreens. To have a positive impact it is important for us to start raising awareness of the consequences on this matter and demand that we act as soon as possible to save our coral reefs,” Hattingh said.

With the ‘People4Ocean’ sunscreen, the founders have merged their knowledge of coral reefs with the expertise of luxury skincare formulators to create a natural sunscreen product. It is a 100 percent natural product, unlike most sunscreen lotions which have ingredients that are harmful to a person’s health and toxic for the environment such as Oxybenzone.

Since Seychelles is already vulnerable to coral bleaching while visitor arrivals keep increasing, the group is concerned with the long-term impact of the use of sunscreen on the country’s marine life. “At minimal concentrations, oxybenzone can inhibit the growth of baby corals, is toxic to seven coral species and is likely to induce coral bleaching. Finally, additional testing has revealed that it also acts as a hormonal disruptor on marine invertebrates such as shrimps and clams,” said Louis Laing. The group is running the campaign among hotels in Seychelles while targeting the tourism industry.

At the moment, the Ministry of Environment is still observing the impact of sunscreen on the marine life. “We are aware of the effects of sunscreen on the corals but it’s too early for us to make any decision on that matter but we are observing it closely,” said Alain Decommarmond, the principal secretary. The founders of the People4Ocean sunscreen said that if Seychelles wishes to maintain a sustainable ocean-based tourism, sunscreen pollution should be addressed.

“The Seychelles’ government recently banned Styrofoam takeaway containers, plastic bags, and single-use plastic straws to reduce plastic pollution, bravo! Why not consider banning oxybenzone to tackle sunscreen pollution?” said Louise Laing. The couple’s next step is campaigning at the next International Great Barrier Reef Restoration Symposium taking place in Cairns, Australia in July.

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Alain St Ange has been working in the tourism business since 2009. He was appointed as the Director of Marketing for Seychelles by President and Minister of Tourism James Michel. He was appointed as the Director of Marketing for Seychelles by President and Minister of Tourism James Michel. After one year of After one year of service, he was promoted to the position of CEO of the Seychelles Tourism Board. In 2012 the Indian Ocean Vanilla Islands regional Organization was formed and St Ange was appointed as the first president of the organization. In a 2012 cabinet re-shuffle, St Ange was appointed as Minister of Tourism and Culture which he resigned on 28 December 2016 in order to pursue a candidacy as Secretary General of the World Tourism Organisation. At the UNWTO General Assembly in Chengdu in China, a person who was being sought after for the “Speakers Circuit” for tourism and sustainable development was Alain St.Ange. St.Ange is the former Seychelles Minister of Tourism, Civil Aviation, Ports and Marine who left office in December last year to run for the position of Secretary General of the UNWTO. When his candidature or document of endorsement was withdrawn by his country just a day before the elections in Madrid, Alain St.Ange showed his greatness as a speaker when he addressed the UNWTO gathering with grace, passion, and style. His moving speech was recorded as the one on the best marking speeches at this UN international body. African countries often remember his Uganda address for the East Africa Tourism Platform when he was a guest of honor. As former Tourism Minister, St.Ange was a regular and popular speaker and was often seen addressing forums and conferences on behalf of his country. His ability to speak ‘off the cuff’ was always seen as a rare ability. He often said he speaks from the heart. In Seychelles he is remembered for a marking address at the official opening of the island’s Carnaval International de Victoria when he reiterated the words of John Lennon famous song… ” you may say I am a dreamer, but I am not the only one. One day you will all join us and the world will be better as one”. The world press contingent gathered in Seychelles on the day ran with the words by St.Ange which made headlines everywhere. St.Ange delivered the keynote address for the “Tourism & Business Conference in Canada” Seychelles is a good example for sustainable tourism. This is therefore not surprising to see Alain St.Ange being sought after as a speaker on the international circuit. Member of Travelmarketingnetwork.