Taiwan dive firm says swimmers wearing sunscreen ‘not welcome’ in Kenting

Taiwan seeing one of worst coral bleaching in years, exacerbated by extreme heat, sunblock

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Bleached corals (Taiwan Dive Center photo)

Bleached corals (Taiwan Dive Center photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — A Taiwanese company providing diving services has pleaded with people not to put on sunblock with certain chemicals when swimming around Kenting (墾丁), the southernmost tourist attraction in Taiwan known for its sunshine and beaches.

Taiwan Dive Center, which offers underwater diving tours, published information in a Facebook post on Tuesday (Aug. 11) about the severity of coral bleaching the country is experiencing. In addition to inviting people to learn about the ecological woes in a livestream show, it said straightforwardly that customers using its service are “not welcome” to engage in underwater activities after applying sunblock.

Dylan Chen (陳琦恩), founder of Taiwan Dive Center, said worryingly that Kenting and Xiao Liuqiu Island (小琉球) are seeing the worst coral bleaching events in 13 years. The company is asking its clients to refrain from wearing makeup or sunscreen to reduce the amount of toxic substances released into the waters, wrote CNA.

The concern was shared by a worker at Kenting National Park, who has recorded frequent extremely high temperatures in the waters in southern Taiwan. Last month the waters around Kenting saw temperatures as high as 31 degrees Celsius on the surface and 28 degrees 10 meters underwater, which have made the reefs vulnerable, wrote Liberty Times.

Studies have shown that sunscreen ingredients such as oxybenzone and octinoxate are harmful to corals. The toxic chemicals, along with heat and a lack of typhoons this year, could have a dire impact on the country’s coral reef systems.

The Pacific nation of Palau, dubbed as a pristine paradise for divers, became the first country in the world to ban sunscreen containing toxic ingredients to corals in January. Hawaii will be the first U.S. state to do so with the ban taking effect January 1, 2021.