Residents are being encouraged to support reef-friendly products as government works to phase out suntan lotions and antifouling paints containing chemicals harmful to marine life, Natural Resources, Labour and Immigration Minister Vincent Wheatley said July 10 in the House of Assembly.

“Sometimes, individuals may feel helpless in their ability to positively contribute to the protection of our coastal resources,” Mr. Wheatley said, noting the negative effects of stormwater runoff, reef diseases, and pollution on the Virgin Islands’ waters. “The conscious choice of products which pose … little to no harm to the environment and a change in the manner in which we interact with our oceans when recreating are concrete actions that can be taken.”

Mr. Wheatley said government plans to ban the use of Tributyltin or TBT, which is contained in some antifouling paints that are used to inhibit growth of marine organisms on the bottom of boats. The use of the chemical in boat paint is banned in much of the world.

The minister added, “The boating sectors should hasten their preparations to improve their facilities to accommodate the processing of sewage, as it is this government’s intention to ban the pumping and discharge of sewage in our coastal water.”

Similarly, he added, his ministry is “working to ensure that the continued use of harmful chemicals that are found in suntan lotions is curtailed over time.”

The minister said banning harmful chemicals and sewage discharge “will go a long way to maintaining the integrity of our natural resources and our continued well-being.”