Corals harvested for beauty products

A U.S. cosmetics company has been granted rare permission to harvest small amounts of soft corals in Cayman’s waters for use in beauty products. 

The secret to long eyelashes, coveted in the beauty industry, has been identified in an extract from a species of Gorgonian coral, known as sea whip, found in abundance in Cayman’s waters. 

Maxey Cosmetics has agreed to pay royalties to government of $25,000 per kilogram, to harvest the tips of these corals to extract a product called black sea rod oil, used to help sustain naturally long lashes. 

It is anticipated that the agreement could net as much as $500,000 for Cayman’s Environmental Protection Fund over the five-year agreement. 

Maxey Cosmetics has previously done research work in Cayman’s waters to create a synthetic variant of the extract. Now they plan to market an all-natural version, using Cayman’s coral as the key ingredient. 

The company’s website is already advertising a product called Maxeylash Island Girl, for $75 per bottle, which it describes as a “new formulation containing Black Sea Rod Oil from the Caribbean Sea.” 

Gina Ebanks-Petrie, director of the Department of Environment, said it was possible to sustainably harvest the tips of the coral without negatively impacting the environment. 

Ordinarily, taking coral anywhere in Cayman’s territorial waters is prohibited. 

Ms. Ebanks-Petrie said the cosmetics company had agreed to a number of conditions, including restricting harvesting to defined areas outside of the marine parks and periodic monitoring of harvest sites from the Department of Environment. 

Tim Austin, deputy director of the department, said sea whips were quick growing corals. He said the tips could be safely harvested in small quantities without impacting growth rates in the long term. 

He said the variety and scope of potential adaptations of corals remained the focus of significant research and could yet yield important medical discoveries. 

“It is amazing what is still left in nature to be discovered,” Mr. Austin said. “That is one of the reasons why it is important to keep healthy coral reefs around. A lot of medicines are derived from natural products and who knows what potential discoveries remain to be made?” 

Environment Minister Wayne Panton said Maxey had a proven track record of sustainable practices and would work in collaboration with government experts. He said the agreement incorporated clauses that took into account marine conservation legislation and the Convention on Biological Diversity, which attempts to ensure fair and equitable sharing of benefits from the use of a country’s natural resources. 

Other conditions specify the amount of the tips of coral that can be collected, which allows the colony to regrow and to be sustained. 

A U.S. cosmetics company has signed a five-year contract with the Cayman Islands government to harvest black sea rod, also known as sea whip.

A U.S. cosmetics company has signed a five-year contract with the Cayman Islands government to harvest black sea rod, also known as sea whip.

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  1. I wonder how much research has been done to know if the tips are cut, what would happen to the rest of that plant/coral? How is Ms Ebanks going to monitor the taking of the corals ? I think that she just opened up the destruction of this rare corals for long eyelashes. Because I see that $25,000 per kilogram to Government, going down to $500 per kilogram to poacher. Knowing this about this rare coral wouldn’t it make more sense leave it in the water and protect it , use it for the benefits of Tourism for everyone to see in the clear crystal blue waters of Cayman Islands.

  2. This is just awful.

    ”Ordinarily, taking coral anywhere in Cayman’s territorial waters is prohibited” – and so it should be.. why are we now making exceptions? For money of course.

    Complete lack of respect for our beautiful island once again. This is so disappointing.

  3. What is wrong with this picture? I will say this our Government needs to stop selling out our IslandS and now our Coral! Is that the plan so they can demolish the coral in G.T to make extra profit from a cosmetic company!?!? THE CORAL DOES NOT BELONG TO THEM TO SELL IT NEEDS TO BE PROTECTED FROM OUR MINISTERS! Minister Wayne Panton I do not see you getting in again….How the hell can you do this to your Island? STOP SELLING OUT OUR ISLAND AND START PROTECTING IT! WHAT A LOAD OF FOOLISHNESS IT WILL DESTROY OUR MARINE LIFE!

  4. A coral is actually made up of thousands of tiny animals called polyps. The World Society for the Protection of Animals should get involved here.
    This country will make more money with less effort by turning its islands into an exclusive preserve because the most affluent will pay more for pristine environments, which translates to higher profit. Which translates into more environment protection jobs.
    Humans killed off the world’s pristine places. The Cayman Islands, once pristine, have joined the list.

  5. Again this shows how stupid and money hungry these two are, to go into it like how they did, when they could have done it and made it more beneficial to the Islands by making every part of the operation be done on the Island. Not that I am in favor of it , but just showing how stupid they are.

  6. Seriously!?!?

    What a huge bunch of hypocrites!

    Gina is all over the news and giving interviews to Save Cayman against the port but when the money is good for her it is alright to remove coral?

    FIVE YEARS of removing coral?

    This lady really needs to go. National "CONSERVATION" council board member my "you know what".

    This is disgraceful and heads should roll.

  7. Grotesque! Harvesting LIVING corals to be used in eyelash lengthening cosmetics in the US? Unbelievably horrid! Almost as demented as selling rides on turtles at the Turtle Farm. Five years of selling Sea Whip polyps for the vanity cosmetic industry? And who will benefit? Not the coral Sea Whips, that’s for sure. And not the foolish women who buy such an eyelash-lengthening elixir from the Cayman Islands coral harvesting over a 5 year period!

    There is something stinky about this scam involving cutting off tips of living coral polyps and selling them to a cosmetics company for an unnecessary "beauty" product – "snake oil" being sold at $75.00 a bottle! Isn’t it prohibited to harvest live coral from anywhere in the Cayman Islands’ waters? Forbidden? And looks who’s taking it for a humongous profit! Outrageous and beyond comprehension! Aren’t the Caribbean seas around the three Sister Islands the Queen’s Property?

  8. I am so angry about the decision Minister Panton and Ms Ebanks made on selling the coral from the waters of Cayman Islands. Makes me to believe that this is the beginning of something that has never been done in the history of the Islands. I think that Ms Ebanks could not have done this deal without Mr Panton knowing and finalize it. I see that this looks like each Minister in this Cayman Islands Government will sell what ever is under them .

  9. Ok…before you all start going off on D.O.E. The corals that they propose to harvest are octocorals or what most refer to as soft coral. They are very fast growers and non-accreting, meaning they are not reef builders. They actually are quite opportunistic and will take spots on the reef that the hard, reef building corals need to settle on. They will also overgrow the substrate if given a chance. Although they are pretty to look at they are out of balance on the reefs as they are not as susceptible to bleaching and and other diseases that hard corals are prone to. So before you jump on the band wagon and start criticizing Doe Cayman do your homework and at least know what you are talking about.