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Darryl Leniuk / Getty Images

By Katie Day

An emerging concern among ocean scientists, stewards and beachgoers is the impact that certain chemical sunscreens are having on the marine environment. This has led to bans on the sale and use of chemical sunscreens in states and island communities such as Hawaii, Key West and Aruba, and a proposed federal ban in all U.S. National Marine Sanctuaries containing coral reefs. There has also been a surge in the production of "reef friendly" sunscreens — but what does that actually mean, and how safe are these alternative sunscreens to the marine environment?

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Coral bleaching at Lizard Island on the Great Barrier Reef in March 2016. The Ocean Agency / XL Catlin Seaview Survey / Richard Vevers

The back-to-back coral bleaching events that damaged two-thirds of Australia's Great Barrier Reef in 2016 and 2017 have had a lasting impact on the health of the largest living structure on earth.

A study published in Nature Wednesday found that the death of corals in 2016 and 2017 has significantly decreased the ability of new corals to grow and thrive. In 2018, there has been an 89 percent decline in the number of new corals on the reef compared to the historic record.

"Dead corals don't make babies," lead author and James Cook University professor Terry Hughes said, as BBC News reported.

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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Lord Howe Island lagoon in New South Wales, Australia. Peter Unger / Lonely Planet Images / Getty Images

By Tess Moriarty, Bill Leggat, C. Mark Eakin, Rosie Steinberg, Scott Heron and Tracy Ainsworth

This month corals in Lord Howe Island Marine Park began showing signs of bleaching. The 145,000 hectare marine park contains the most southerly coral reef in the world, in one of the most isolated ecosystems on the planet.

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California's kelp forests have been particularly damaged by marine heat waves, a study has found. Tammy616 / Getty Images

The first study to look systemically at marine heat waves — periods when ocean temperatures spike for five days or more —found that they are happening more often, and are having a devastating impact on marine life, The Guardian reported.

The paper, published in Nature Climate Change Monday, found that the number of heat wave days per year had increased by more than 50 percent during the last 29 years (1987 to 2016) when compared to the years between 1925 and 1954. This is bad news for important ocean ecosystems from kelp forests to coral reefs.

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Roderick Brazier / Australia's High Commissioner to Solomon Islands

By Eoin Higgins

An oil spill in the Pacific Ocean's Solomon Islands after a mining company's cargo ship ran aground is threatening an endangered environmental gem.

"The impact of this oil spill will have a devastating effect on the surrounding environment, including potentially on a protected UNESCO World Heritage Site, as well as the livelihood of the people of Rennell," Australia's High Commissioner to the Solomon Islands Rod Brazier said in a statement.

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A sea turtle swims above a fragile coral reef in Wailea, Maui, Hawaii. M Swiet Productions / Moment / Getty Images

By Ilissa Ocko

The world's oceans are heating up. Scientists have found that 2018 was the hottest year ever recorded for our oceans, and that they are warming even faster than previously thought.

When documenting global warming trends, we often focus on air temperature. But the oceans actually absorb more than 90 percent of the excess heat trapped by human emissions of greenhouse gases. So if we really want to know how much our planet is warming up, we look to the oceans.

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Aerial view of the Great Barrier Reef. Marco Brivio / Photographer's Choice / Getty Images

The Great Barrier Reef faces yet "another nail in the coffin," Dr. Simon Boxall from the National Oceanography Centre Southampton told BBC News Friday.

That is because the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) has approved plans to dump one million tonnes (approximately 1.1 million U.S. tons) of sludge into the World Heritage Site. The decision comes in the same month that runoff from flooding in Queensland, Australia threatened to smother part of the reef and two years after the unique ecosystem was weakened by back-to-back coral bleaching events caused by climate change.

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Degraded coral reefs at Kahekili Beach Park in west Maui, Hawaii. Peter Swarzenski / Usgs

In a case watched closely both by polluting industries and clean water advocates across the nation, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to take up an appeal of a Clean Water Act case out of Hawaii concerning treated sewage flowing into the Pacific Ocean from injection wells.

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Kanggava Bay on Rennell Island, where a grounded ship is leaking oil, according to some reports. Peter Hendrie / Getty Images

A ship that ran aground in the Solomon islands Feb. 4 is now menacing a coral reef with an oil spill, The Guardian reported Tuesday.

The 740 foot MV Solomon Trader was stranded on a reef near Rennell Island, home to the largest raised coral atoll in the world and a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage site, AFP reported. The bulk carrier has not been salvaged in the two weeks since it was stranded because of Cyclone Oma, Solomon Islands National Disaster Management Office (NDMO) director Loti Yates told Radio New Zealand early Monday morning.

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A NASA worldview image showing runoff from Queensland, Australia floods heading towards the Great Barrier Reef. NASA

Muddy water from historic flooding in Queensland, Australia is now flowing out of rivers into the sea, threatening even the outer shelves of the Great Barrier Reef some 60 kilometers (approximately 37.3 miles) from the coast, Australia's ABC News reported Friday.

Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) water quality team leader Dr. Frederieke Kroon told ABC News that the runoff covered "an extraordinarily large area." Researchers said it is likely filled with nitrogen pollution and pesticides, and poses a risk to the health of a reef already damaged by back-to-back coral bleaching events in 2016 and 2017.

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Partially bleached corals on Molasses Reef in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Matt Kieffer / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

City officials in Key West have put the cap on sunscreen—or at least varieties that contain chemicals believed to harm coral reefs and increase coral bleaching and death.

The Florida Keys is home to the third largest living coral barrier reef system in the world. The ecosystem is a habitat for fish species and other marine life and also serves as economically important touristic and recreational spot.

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