Few people know that the source of most of the world’s oxygen is the ocean. Coral reefs are the cornerstone of this ecosystem, providing food and habitat for fish that in turn feed larger marine species and support over half a billion people.
Fewer people still realize how very fragile the ocean’s coral reefs are. According to the new film 50 Minutes to Save the World by director Amir Zakeri, over 70 percent of the world’s coral reefs have been impacted by pollution and coral bleaching events in recent years, endangering the future of marine and human life.
Moved by the plight of the coral reefs, Zakeri documented his travels around the world to uncover the major threats to the survival of coral reefs and to find solutions to save them. Over the course of his journey, he discovered Regenerative Resorts location Hamanasi Resort in Belize.
How They are Making a Difference
Home to the second-largest barrier reef in the world, Belize is making waves in marine conservation and reef preservation. The country has halted all offshore oil drilling, and Hamanasi in particular has launched several initiatives to save the reef.
To combat the alarming statistic that by 2050 there may be more plastic than fish in the ocean, Hamanasi has banned all single-use plastics from their property. Opting instead for biodegradable bamboo straws, they aim to educate guests about the impact their choices have on the environment.
Hamanasi’s greatest step so far has been the banning of non reef-safe sunscreens.
Coral reefs are particularly subject to harmful chemicals such as Oxybenzon and Octinoxate, which are found in most sunscreens. According to the Save the Reef site, scientists estimate that over 14,000 tons of sunscreen are washed off into the oceans every year. Luckily, there is a solution that will keep human and marine life safe.
Non-nano Zinc Oxide is an effective, natural mineral sunblock. It is not harmful to the reefs as it can’t be absorbed by them, making it a simple solution to a growing problem. As part of their reef preservation measures, Hamanasi has partnered with All Good sunscreen to encourage guests to take this simple step toward a sustainable future.
While Hamanasi’s reef is thriving, Zakeri and his group also traveled to the Seychelles and were dismayed by the state of the reefs there. Hit hard by a 2016 bleaching event, the reefs had been largely wiped out, but local groups are now working diligently to restore them.
In 2017, ocean conservation groups partnered with hotels in the area to start regrowing the degraded reefs. In particular, Raffles Resort has partnered with the Marine Conservation Society of Seychelles to create educational snorkeling trails where guests can see and understand firsthand the health of the reefs.
The resort has done more than educate, however. They’ve also taken action, growing a coral nursery to restore the reef and stopping the use of plastic straws, bottles and bags onsite. These simple strategies may just be the second chance the reefs desperately need.
What You Can Do to Help
Despite the devastation Zakeri documented in his film, there is reason for hope. The filmmaker highlighted several solutions to the biggest threats facing coral reefs today:
- The use of clean energies in place of fossil fuels. With the increasing accessibility and popularity of solar and wind energy, it is feasible for us to make a change for good.
- Minimizing single-use plastics. From reusable water bottles to canvas shopping bags, many people have already taken this small step.
- Reducing the use of GMOs and pesticides. These chemicals run off into the ocean, so instead use natural herbicides or opt not to spray at all.
- Use of reef-safe sunscreen. As mentioned above, switching to a zinc-based sunscreen will keep you safe in the sun and protect the lives of many marine species.
For more information about how you can help save the reefs, visit savethereef.org and be sure to watch Amir Zakeri’s film, 50 Minutes to Save the World below.