An estimated 4,000 to 6,000 metric tons of sunscreen washes off swimmers annually. This can affect the ocean in many different ways. This semester the Flats Research Program at CEI is looking at how different types of sunscreen affect bonefish. Bonefish are a very important fish commercially in the Bahamas. There is a common theory in the angling world that certain chemicals, including sunscreen, can discourage fish from biting flies. The flats team would like to test if sunscreen affects bite choice of bonefish.
We are capturing bonefish from the local tidal creeks in seines. These fish will then be fed shrimp to satiation. The next day we will come back with the shrimp coated in different types of sunscreen. We will record their behavior and the amount they eat again to see if sunscreen changes their feeding behavior.
To further look at the effects sunscreen has on the bonefish catch and release industry, we are going to perform an experiment where we will exercise the bonefish for 3 minutes to simulate the exhaustion from angling, and then we will have sunscreen on our hands when handling bonefish, as anglers possibly would. We will keep the fish in holding tanks in the lab for at least two weeks to observe any lasting effects. We are hoping to share these results with Bonefish & Tarpon Trust and other journals, and encourage better catch and release practices.