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.