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Reef-Safe Sunscreen

August 25, 2020
Reef-Safe Sunscreen - ☀️ How to Protect Yourself and the Reef   By Lisa Goldenberg, Reef Check Australia Ambassador Freediver ● Ocean lover ● Coffee drinker   We get to the beach, Slip! Slop! Slap!, and off we go. But what are we actually slopping on? Is it good for us? Is it good for the reef? Perhaps you’re a weekend snorkeler or maybe an avid Reef Check surveyor. Maybe, like us, you marvel at the colours and shapes of the coral, stare in wonder at their vibrant forms and hues, become mesmerized by the fish swimming by too dazzling to believe. The stunning vast blue. The mystical depths that lure us to play and explore. As ocean lovers, we want to enjoy the ocean responsibly. We don’t use single-use plastic, we don’t stand on or kick the coral, and we don’t want to leave a trail of harmful sunscreen in our wake. While Queensland is home to the most beautiful reefs in the world, we are also known as the skin-cancer capital of the world. As we dive into the ocean and work to protect the reefs, we must also protect ourselves from the sun. Sunscreens work by providing either a physical barrier or a chemical barrier from the sun’s harmful rays. In order for a reef to work, corals need access to the rays we are shielding ourselves from. Along with warm temperature, clean and clear saltwater, corals need sunlight to survive. As we swim along enjoying the reef, it is estimated we leave behind up to 14,000 tons of sunscreen annually. This not only harms marine life but also covers the most popular reefs in tourist parks with a sunscreen sheen, blocking the sun from getting to the coral below. And even in extremely low concentrations, it’s been shown that sunscreens can cause rapid and complete bleaching of hard corals. Image by Everyday California Some marine parks, like Cozumel in Mexico, ban sunscreen outright. In those instances, a stinger suit or SPF rashie is your best bet. They cover and protect you while causing no harm to the reef. But usually, sunscreen is a must. And while no sunscreen is completely safe for coral and marine life, there are choices we can make to protect ourselves while minimizing the harm to the reef. When choosing a sunscreen, ignore the marketing and sustainable-looking packaging.  Be wary of labels that claim the product is “reef safe,” because the question is: safe for whom? The term “reef safe” doesn’t have an agreed-upon definition, and isn’t strictly regulated by the government. And of course, companies that sell sunscreen are in the business of selling sunscreen. And while the Cancer Council of Queensland recommends the use of water-resistant sunscreens with SPF 30 or higher, they don’t concern themselves with whether the sunscreen’s ingredients are harmful to the reef - or to our skin. As reef lovers, it’s our responsibility to choose our sunscreen carefully. We must check the ingredients and look for ingredients that are safe - for both us and the reef. Here’s what to avoid and what to look for: Avoid: 🚫 Oxybenzone (also known as benzophenone-3) and octinoxate (also known as octyl methoxycinnamate). These chemicals have been proven to harm marine life and coral reefs and have been linked to hormone disruption, cell damage, and allergic reactions. In January, Palau became the first country to ban these chemicals. They are also banned in Hawaii, and several other tropical regions throughout the world. (Perhaps Queensland should do the same?) 🚫 Nanoparticles are so small they can enter our bloodstream. They are also absorbed by coral. They cause oxidative stress that may lead to cell damage, genotoxic effects, inflammatory responses, and changes in cell structure. 🚫 Parabens (Butylparaben, Methylparaben, and Propylparaben) are harmful to the reefs and have been found to act as endocrine disruptors. 🚫 Cinnamates (Octyl methoxycinnamate and Cinoxate) have been shown to negatively impact coral reefs. Look for: ✅ Zinc oxide and/or Titanium dioxide sunscreens are mineral sunscreens. These physically block the sun’s rays and have not been shown harmful to the reefs. They are biodegradable and hypo-allergenic. ✅ “Non-nano” refers to particles larger than 100 nanometers and is considered safe for us and the reef. ✅ Water-resistant sunscreen helps keep the product on your skin and not wash off in the water. ✅ Wait at least 15 minutes after applying your sunscreen before entering the water so that your skin can absorb it and it won’t wash right off.   It’s our responsibility to do what we can to safeguard the health of the reefs that we love. How we act in the water and the products we introduce to it are our opportunity to do just that.  What are your favorite sunscreens? Let us know what you recommend!  
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Be an Ocean Action Agent | DIY Beeswax Wraps

August 11, 2020
Have you heard of beeswax wraps??? They are all the rage right now! Beeswax wraps are fun, easy to make and a great eco friendly alternative to plastic cling wrap. Check out our new DIY beeswax wrap poster guide to get your hands (slightly) dirty and make some of your own! For more plastic free tips checkout our online resources here  Thank you to Townsville City Council and our awesome volunteers for supporting this new resource!
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Low Isles Tangaroa Blue ReefCleen Event May 2020

June 16, 2020
Low Isles in the Port Douglas region of the Great Barrier Reef is truly spectacular. On a cool winters day in the shadow of Covid19 the scene was quiet, however the reefs are looking spectacular demonstrating strong recovery from the bleaching that severely affected it three years ago. There were minimal signs of bleaching impacts in 2020 however. Thank you to Wavelength Reef Cruises for hosting us out on the reef and assisting us in completing our work. Reef Check Australia were on site as part of the Tangaroa Blue ReefClean event. We conducted an underwater clean up at the site and thankfully found very little rubbish. A few masks and snorkels under where the tourist boats would normally park but generally pretty clean. I can’t help but wonder if the lack of tourists currently on site had an affect on the low level of rubbish we found. The ReefClean project is funded by the Australian Government’s Reef Trust and delivered by Tangaroa Blue Foundation and a number of partner organisations including Reef Check Australia       
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Around the Reef - Reef Check Australia - June Update

June 16, 2020
Dear Friend of RCA -  With Winter now in full swing, and restrictions gradually beginning to reduce, we are starting to see more people out and able to enjoy our beautiful natural habitats, and that includes the oceans. Our volunteers have been busy online, and out surveying the nearby reefs to keep us all updated. Here's what is coming up in this months edition of 'Around the Reef'. Action of the Month: Donating to Reef Check Australia Telling the stories of Reef Check Australia My Giving Circle National Volunteer Week Getting to know our volunteers News from the Field Current Coral Affairs Get With the Program Action of the Month: Donating to Reef Check Australia Reef Check Australia really appreciates all the donations of both time and money to support our team and the work we do. With only a few more weeks left till the end of the financial year your support is more important then ever. If you would like to donate, please use the link below to go to our secure website. Remember all donations over $2 are tax-deductible, and you can choose to donate as a once-off amount or through regular monthly donations.   Make a Donation   Are you collecting bottles and cans around your house ready to be recycled? Well another way to help is to have the refund donated to Reef Check Australia. All you need to do is scan the below barcode at the machine at your local TOMRA recycling centre. Find my local TOMRA Recycling Centre   Telling the Stories of Reef Check Australia Over the past couple of months, RCA has been working with students from ANU in Canberra, to help showcase the amazing array of volunteers that make up our organisation. We will be sharing these videos and stories with you in the coming weeks, but we also wanted to share the story of the students that put them together. It's going to take all hands on deck to change the world, and we want to celebrate everyone. Paris, from ANU Canberra shared her experience with us here... 'As part of a science communication course at ANU in Canberra, we were given the opportunity to work with an incredible citizen science organisation – Reef Check Australia (RCA). We were tasked with developing social media content (short videos, photos and blogs) in celebration of the citizen scientists and volunteers that work for RCA. We wanted to showcase the diversity in the academic and professional backgrounds of the volunteers, as well as their ability to help protect the reef from locations around Australia (and the world!). The whole experience for us was invaluable, and we hope that the content we produced will encourage others that they have the power to get involved and make a difference. Thank you again for this opportunity, we hope to see you out on the reefs one day!' You can take a look at one of the videos here...   We Need Your Vote! My Giving Circle Thank you to all who have already voted and shared. We still need your votes. You can go online and vote once a week till June 30.   Reef Check Australia are one of the thousands of charities around the world that are registered for My Giving Circle for 2020. If we get enough votes between now and June 30, we are able to share in $200,000 worth of grant money.Keen to see us win? All you need to do is vote for Reef check Australia #1 once a week, between now and June 30. Want to do even more to get across the line? Donate to Reef Check Australia through the My Giving Circle link and we will get even more votes, increasing our chances of winning!   Celebrating our Volunteers : National Volunteer Week 2020 (& Every Week!) In May we celebrated National Volunteer Week. We LOVE our volunteers, and although we couldn't all get together, we thought it might be a nice time to celebrate just what being a volunteer means. Our volunteers come from all over the world and are involved in everything both above and below the water. Because it's going to take all hands on deck to protect our reefs and oceans. This video shows just some of the diverse range of volunteers we have at RCA, take a look...       Getting to Know our Volunteers at Reef Check Australia Here at RCA we are all about our volunteers as they are the backbone to what we are all about. So we wanted to introduce you to some of these wonderful humans and find out what makes them tick, by asking a few questions. This month we have been chatting to Olga, who has been actively out and about in her neighborhood collecting recyclable cans and bottles to be donated to RCA. ''Moin Leute! (Hi guys, in German) My name is Olga, an international student from Germany. I joined RCA at the beginning of my stay here in Australia because I love the idea of citizen science and saving the reef. You can help keep the oceans and reef clean even if you think you don't have any direct impact. Recycling is one of these things you can do easily, and make a difference to the reef, and to Reef Check Australia. You can join us in 'Recycling for the Reef'. Simply use the bar code below, and take your cans and bottles to your local TOMRA recycling centre, and the refunds will be donated to Reef Check Australia. Easy!''    We also asked Olga a few interesting questions..... Name: Olga Where are you from?: Germany What is the project you are working on/ hope to start for RCA? 'Recycling for the Reef' and 'Plasticfree Markets' What animal do you think best represents you? Cat Are you a night owl, or an early bird? Night Owl Would your superpower be Flying or invisibility? Flying What is your favorite food? Chili cheese fries What is you favorite marine animal? Crabs Thanks Olga for being an important part of Reef Check Australia.   News from the field Stories and updates from our teams out & about. Check out some of these regional stories on our website! Virtual Catch up with the GBR Crew  The Reef Check Australia GBR team had a virtual catch up last month. It was great to share some space and start making waves again since COVID-19 restrictions have started to ease. We checked in with each other, spoke about what opportunities we have coming up and brainstormed some new resources for our GBR ambassador kits and community engagement events. Sunshine Coast After many weeks of cancelled surveys due to unsuitable weather and COVID-19 restrictions it was great to get back in the water and conduct our first offshore SEQ surveys in some time. Surface conditions were great and we were very comfortable aboard Subsurface Scuba's vessel "Sea Searcher". 23 degree water temp and 15-20m visibility made for great diving conditions despite some surge. Surveys were conducted at Currimundi Reef sites 1,2 & 3. Site 3 presented an abundance of anemone and anemonefish. The site 1 transect tape was laid with guidance from a large squad of inquisitive squid that seemed to know our heading! On our trip back to port a friendly dolphin pulled us over to have a chat. Great work SEQ team!! These surveys are supported by funding through the Sunshine Coast Council's Environment Levy Partnership Grant.     Moreton Bay After weeks of bad weather and COVID considerations, we were finally blessed with crystal clear waters, blue skies and written confirmation from the Queensland Government that we were allowed to get back in the water to continue our vital Reef Health Monitoring. Mud Island is an interesting site. With large areas accumulating silt, most wouldn't think twice of avoiding this small island area. However, it was a beautiful example of how diverse the coral populations can be, in such close proximity to a bustling city. There was so much coral, it was beautiful to see. The water was a little cold, but such a lovely way to kick off surveys in the region. This Reef Check Australia project is proudly supported by the Port of Brisbane Pty Ltd       North Queensland Fitzroy Island Showing Signs of Continued Reef Health. The Reef Check Australia team headed to Fitzroy Island and found time to complete a reef health survey at one of the sites on the north western side of the island. The site has been surveyed 3 times over the past 13 months and continues to show strong signs of continued health. Hard coral cover has increased from 31% to 49% in that time highlighting reef growth since substantial declines were recorded after the 2017 bleaching. Bleaching this year was evident, but most of the coral the team saw during our survey was healthy. Where bleaching was still evident, the corals were in recovery and look like they will continue that way throughout 2020. Other notable observations included low levels of algal growth and no recently dead coral. We were also lucky to spot a turtle relaxing amongst the corals toward the end of our survey.   Low Isles in the Port Douglas region of the Great Barrier Reef is truly spectacular. On a cool winters day in the shadow of Covid19 the scene was quiet, however the reefs are looking spectacular demonstrating strong recovery from the bleaching that severely affected it three years ago. There were minimal signs of bleaching impacts in 2020 however. Thank you to Wavelength Reef Cruises for hosting us out on the reef and assisting us in completing our work. Reef Check Australia were on site as part of the Tangaroa Blue ReefClean event. We conducted an underwater clean up at the site and thankfully found very little rubbish. A few masks and snorkels under where the tourist boats would normally park but generally pretty clean. I can’t help but wonder if the lack of tourists currently on site had an affect on the low level of rubbish we found.      The Reefclean project is funded by the Australian Government’s Reef Trust, and delivered by Tangaroa Blue Foundation, and a number of partner organisations including Reef Check Australia   Want to see what we get up to on our Reef Surveys? A few of our Reef Check Australia Surveyors have put together a video of what they actually get up to on a typical survey. Take a look....     Current Coral Affairs Check out some of the latest news and research about our ocean:   Watch an inspirational take on the state of our oceans and an effective way to get the message across by Johannes Stoetter. Read More   Scientists push to raise awareness of the Great Southern Reef. Finding a way to protect this 'biodiversity hotspot'. Read More    Woolworth's to add a paper bag option at checkout. Will this be an effective way to reduce the ever increasing problem of plastic waste? Read More     Get with the Program Here's what we've got coming up in the next few weeks, keep checking the website for more updates.  Tuesday, 9 June 2020: Coast to Coral: Light Pollution and the Environment    June 2020, date TBC: We have another Tangaroa Blue Reef Cleanup happening at Magnetic Island. We have not set a date yet for this event but are currently watching the weather so that we can make the most of it. If you would like to join us, please get in touch with jenni@reefcheckaustralia.org or nathan@reefcheckaustralia.org so we can keep you in the loop! Tuesday, 14 July 2020: Coast to Coral: The Wonderful World of Crabs and their Diversity     Thanks for reading! If you want to help our work to empower more people to protect Australian reefs, please consider making a monthly tax-deductible donation.    Make a Donation   Copyright © 2020 Reef Check Australia, All rights reserved.Our mailing address is: Reef Check Australia1/377 Montague RdWest End, QLD 4101Australia
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May 2020 St Helena Reef Health Surveys

May 13, 2020
After a period of postponements due to weather and COVID19 restrictions, the Reef Check Australia team headed out for a day on Moreton Bay to complete some Reef Health surveys. Good water visibility at Manly Boat Ramp bouyed our spirits and upon arrival at St Helena Island we were pleased to be able to see the substrate from the boat. The 2 sites at St Helena have patchy coral, but it was rather healthy with only a small amount of bleaching observed. It was also pleasing to note there was hardly any trash. The excellent smooth surface conditions made up for the rather chilly water.
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Whitsundays Clean Up

May 13, 2020
In May the Reef Check Australia team completed a beach and an underwater clean up at Luncheon Bay on the northern end of Hook Island in the Whitsundays. We operated as a small team to ensure adherence to social distancing restrictions and completed a one hour dive in the shallow bay. There was very little debris underwater, with only a half a snorkel being  found. The beach clean up yielded a few more items,. Micro-plastics, foam remnants, a few shoes and even a wetsuit shirt. It is possible there was less rubbish on this occasion With fewer tourists in the region due to the global pandemic. The ReefClean project is funded by the Australian Government’s Reef Trust and delivered by Tangaroa Blue Foundation and a number of partner organisations including Reef Check Australia  
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