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Threats To Hanauma Bay

For local residents and to thousands of visitors each year the Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve provides the opportunity to enjoy one of nature’s most splendid creations.  This, however, has not come without costs.  In addition to its beautiful white sands, waters of blues and turquoise, and gorgeous blue skies, the Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve also shelters a living coral reef.  Part of the global infrastructure of vital coral reef systems.  

Coral reefs are diverse underwater ecosystems held together by calcium carbonate structures secreted by corals. Coral reefs are built by colonies of tiny animals found in marine water that contain few nutrients. Most coral reefs are built from stony corals, which in turn consist of polyps that cluster in groups. The polyps belong to a group of animals known as Cnidaria, which also includes sea anemones and Jellyfish. Unlike sea anemones, corals secrete hard carbonate exoskeletons, which support and protect the coral polyps. Most reefs grow best in warm, shallow, clear, sunny and agitated water. Often called “rainforests of the sea”, shallow coral reefs form some of the most diverse ecosystems on Earth. They occupy less than 0.1% of the world’s ocean surface, about half the area of France, yet they provide a home for at least 25% of all marine species, including fish, mollusks, worms, crustaceans, echinoderms, sponges, tunicates, and other cnidarians. Paradoxically, coral reefs flourish even though they are surrounded by ocean waters that provide few nutrients. They are most commonly found at shallow depths in tropical waters, but deep water and cold water corals also exist on smaller scales in other areas. Coral reefs are fragile ecosystems, partly because they are very sensitive to water temperature. They are under threat from climate change, oceanic acidification, blast fishing, cyanide fishing for aquarium fish, sunscreens containing oxybenzone, overuse of reef resources, and harmful land-use practices, including urban and agricultural runoff and water pollution, which can harm reefs by encouraging excess algal growth.

Protection of our coral reefs is not only vital to maintaining the pristine beauty of the Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve, but in a very real sense it is crucial to protecting the life of oceans and seas across the globe, without which, there is no life on this planet.


Oxybenzone is an ingredient found in many, if not most, of today’s sunscreens and sunscreen products.  Oxybenzone is being called a “Reef Killer” by ocean scientists worldwide.  Please take the time to view the commentary at the links below that speak to the dangers of using sunscreens containing Oxybenzone.

Hawaii News Now – Report of Water Sampling at Hanauma Bay
Hawaii News Now report of water sampling at Hanauma  Bay by Dr. Craig Downs.  Sampling is to determine if there is contamination in Hanauma Bay from Oxybenzone or other toxins.

CBS News Report
CBS News video reporting on Hawaii’s efforts to ban Oxybenzone from all Hawaii beaches

Documentary By The RedfordCenter
Documentary video by The RedfordCenter and supported by Friends of Hanauma Bay entitled Reefs At Risk: What’s In Your Sunscreen

News Article From The New York Times
Article from the New York Times entitled: Is Your Sunscreen Poisoning the Ocean

Friends of Hanauma Bay encourage all visitors to the Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve to check the ingredients of their sunscreen products and to not use products containing oxybenzone.   When choosing a sunscreen, look for the following active ingredients: zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, which are safe mineral sunscreens. See link below for listing of recommended sunscreen products.

Hawaii DLNR and FOHB Recommended Reef-Safe Sunscreen Products
Listing of non-Oxybenzone sunscreen products recommended by both Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) and Friends of Hanauma Bay (FOHB).

Oxybenzone-Free Worldwide Facebook Page
A page launched on Facebook to provide information on the threat of Oxybenzone to the world’s oceans and seas.