Maui holds a special place in my heart. I have been blessed to spend summers here since 2005. The waters of this magical Hawaiian island draw me to them every day. Swimming through schools of brightly colored tropical fish, daily meetings with my friends the Sea Turtles and diving into forests of vibrant coral, make me feel like I have arrived in Heaven while still on this earth. My beautiful second home is being threatened, however. The visitors sunscreen and inability to relieve themselves outside the water is killing coral and threatening sea life.
In my favorite diving spot, Honolua Bay, the water has the highest bacteria level in all of Hawaii. This is caused by the tourists urinating (and other things) in this paradise. The Hawaiian Department of Health regularly checks beaches for bacteria levels. During the summer months, the bacteria level at Honolua goes drastically up. (See site link below.) Experts believe this is from the increased tourist traffic in the summer months when the water is calm and conditions for snorkeling are perfect. This increase in human interaction brings more urine and feces to the water. This indiscriminate bathroom usage is causing my playground to become dangerous to sealife, coral...and ME! My friends and I do NOT want to swim and/or live in a toilet.
Sunscreen use is dangerous for this ecosystem as well. A recent study tells us....”the chemicals in even one drop of sunscreen are enough to damage fragile coral reef systems. Some 14,000 tons of sunscreen lotions wind up in coral reefs around the world each year.” (Wagner) Oxybenzone is a chemical in some sunscreens that kills coral. When swimmers wearing this chemical get in Honolua, it drastically endangers coral. In the 10 years I have been visiting Honolua I have seen a frightening decline in coral health and sealife population. Coral is the foundation of this ecosystem. Fish feed off of it, find safety from predators and lounge in its protective shade. With an unhealthy coral forest, wildlife no longer visit. The huge schools of fish I used to swim with are no longer there. The pods of dolphins that came swimming up to ME are gone. In the past I used to see 6-10 Green Sea Turtles on every visit. Now only 1 or 2 can be seen visiting this bay. These are signs that this beautiful sealife haven is screaming for help.
The efforts of ecoactivists have begun to pay off. The state of Hawaii has responded. As of October, the land surrounding Honolua is owned and protected by the state. They have placed portapotties at the entrance to the parking lot. There have been signs posted regarding safe sunscreen use. Yet, I still see tourists slathering on dangerous brands of sunscreen and getting offended when I ask that they not use it. This last summer I only went 1 time due to water quality warnings. Someone must still be using the wrong toilet. More work needs to be done.
Please help me with educating people about the danger they pose to our oceans. Can you post 1 social media post educating people on this issue? Can you come up with a statement that will convince citizens of our beautiful planet to make simple changes like….not using Oxybenzone containing sunscreen and relieving yourself in the restroom not the ocean when you visit ANY beach? Share your ideas here. Let’s all help our fellow citizens understand how to use our oceans responsibly.
Teachers and Students of Desert Learning Academy