Haereticus Environmental Laboratory

Haereticus Environmental Laboratory (HEL) is dedicated to increasing the scientific, social and economic knowledge of natural environmental habitats.

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Silver Spiral Seas is proud to support Haereticus Environmental Laboratory (HEL), a scientific nonprofit that promotes conservation and restoration of endangered ecosystems through research, education, and advocacy. HEL specifically targets coral reefs, which are threatened globally. 

To conserve coral reefs, HEL has been instrumental in exposing chemical ingredients in sunscreen products as pollutants to reefs and other ecosystems. In 2015, HEL Executive Director Craig Downs, Ph.D reported that the chemical sunscreen oxybenzone is toxic to corals. Oxybenzone is now on the “HEL List” of chemicals that are toxic to natural environments. This list includes common ingredients in sunscreens and other products, including octinoxate and triclosan. 

To promote the use of environmentally safe products, HEL established the “Protect Land + Sea” (PL+S) Certification Seal to identify products that do not contain any ingredients on the HEL List. PL+S certified products are tested in a laboratory using analytical-forensic techniques to ensure they are free of these toxic chemicals. This certification process is distinct because it relies on third-party testing by HEL instead of self-reporting by manufacturers.

On the restoration side, HEL has worked in coral husbandry to preserve coral specimens for future regeneration. HEL perfected cryopreservation of coral – freezing and preserving coral samples in a “living and reproductively viable state.” Further, HEL scientists developed a method of propagating coral from “near microscopic tissue biopsies”. These developments have allowed the creation of the Global Coral Repository, a collection of preserved coral specimens from around the world. These specimens can be used in the short-term to study factors affecting coral decline. Longer term, these specimens could be regenerated to restore coral reefs. 

Silver Spiral Seas is invested in HEL’s mission to protect coral reefs in the short term and restore them in the future. Silver Spiral Seas specifically supports HEL’s work with the Kahalu'u Bay Education Center (KBEC). KBEC is working to eliminate oxybenzones and other toxic chemical ingredients from Kahalu'u Bay, whose reefs are endangered by heavy visitor traffic.  HEL tests the oxybenzone levels in Kahalu'u, which informs KBEC’s efforts to protect Hawaii's fragile coral ecosystems.