Fish Radio
World corals : Death by sunscreen

July 15, 2015

This is Fish Radio. I’m Laine Welch – Tons of sunscreen lotions are killing world corals.

Alaskan Quota and Permits in Petersburg now offers free gear and vessel listings. Check it out at

Alaska Seafood U is the new school of fish! The online program offers Alaska seafood training for employees of retail groceries and restaurants. Learn more at

All that sun block being slathered on by beach-goers around the world is causing major damage to ocean corals. A study funded by the European Commission revealed that the mix of 20 compounds used to protect skin from the harmful effects of the sun causes rapid bleaching of coral reefs.

Researchers at the University of Pisa in Italy added controlled amounts of three brands of sunscreen to water surrounding coral reefs in Mexico, Indonesia, Thailand and Egypt. Even small doses caused huge discharges of the tiny algae that live within the coral colonies, providing nutrients and color. Complete bleaching occurred within 96 hours.

The World Trade Organization reports that 10 per cent of world tourism takes place in tropical areas, with nearly 80 million people visiting coral reefs each year. The WTO estimates that up to 6,000 tons of sun screen lotions are released into reef areas each year – and that up to 10 per cent of the world’s coral reefs are at risk of ‘death by sunscreen.

While Alaska’s deep sea corals face threats from ocean acidification, they are safe from sun screens. Alaska’s corals don’t need light or algae to grow and acquire nutrients directly from the water column.

Unlike tropical varieties, Alaska corals don’t form reefs – they grow into dense gardens and can live for hundreds of years.

The waters surrounding the Aleutian Islands are believed to harbor the most abundant and diverse coldwater corals in the world. 

Find the sunscreen and corals study in the U.S. Journal of Environmental Health Perspectives.

Fish Radio is also brought to you by Ocean Beauty Seafoods.  Ocean Beauty has contributed over 10 million meals to the U.S. Food Bank network, and is committed to ending hunger in America.      In Kodiak, I’m Laine Welch.