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Reef Safe Sunscreen Dispensers Installed at Kahalu‘u Beach

January 25, 2021, 4:27 PM HST
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Members of ReefTeach celebrate the opening of reef safe sunscreen dispensers at Kahaluu Bay on Saturday, Jan. 23, 2021. PC: Big Island Now Staff.

As part of an ongoing initiative to support reef health and regrowth, two new reef-safe sunscreen dispensers have been installed at the pavilion in Kahalu‘u Beach Park.

The program is made possible by the volunteer-run organization ReefTeach and a grant from Target, which will keep the dispensers up at least six months. 

Along with the dispensers, volunteers and informational signage from the ReefTeach program will be at the beach daily.

“This kind of project needs interaction with the visitors,” said Cindi Punahaloe, an active member of the organization. “We want to share information as aloha ambassadors, not as enforcers. More people respond to love.”

Before the coronavirus pandemic caused a precipitous decline in tourism, Kahalu‘u Beach was seeing approximately 400,000 visitors a year. In 2019, testing for oxybenzone found the water levels over 200 times the amount considered high-risk by the US Environmental Protection Agency.

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According to the ReefTeach volunteers, the reef at Kahalu‘u has improved tremendously since the beginning of the pandemic.

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“But it’s important to continue healing as we reopen. We need to perpetuate safety and regrowth,” Punahaole added. 

Although the dispensers have been a success and are popular with locals and visitors alike, volunteers from ReefTeach say they have more plans for the program.

“We’d like to expand to other popular beaches like Two Step,” Punahaole said. “If we can work with the community there, we believe it will provide long-lasting results.”

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ReefTeach also wants to add an underwater educational experience to the beach park, so visitors can learn about the coral reef and wildlife as they snorkel and swim. 

If you are interested in finding out more about the ReefTeach program, or would like to volunteer, email [email protected] or visit their site here.

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