Kahalu'u Bay Education Center

The Kahalu'u Bay Education Center (KBEC) protects and supports one of Hawaii’s most fragile coral reef ecosystems.

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Green Sea Turtle

The Kahalu'u Bay Education Center works tirelessly to protect the sea turtles and other marine wildlife frequenting the bay.


Kahalu'u Bay is home to a beautiful coral reef whose diverse ecosystem of sea turtles, fish, coral, and other marine life draws over 400,000 visitors annually. Sadly, the presence of these visitors has threatened the survival of the natural treasures that attracted them in the first place. Coral reefs are in trouble worldwide, but Kahalu'u Bay is particularly vulnerable because of its increasing traffic. 


The Kahalu'u Bay Education Center (KBEC), a program of The Kohala Center, seeks to protect this fragile reef through education, research, and advocacy. The staff and volunteers at KBEC work tirelessly every day to protect the marine animals in Kahalu'u Bay and have been a beacon of hope and a constant source of inspiration to us.

Their ReefTeach program shows visitors how to snorkel Kahalu'u without damaging the reef or its inhabitants. Most of the coral reef damage caused by visitors is unintentional, resulting only from a lack of awareness. ReefTeach offers snorkelers simple steps - such as not touching the coral - that they can take to minimize their impact while enjoying the reef.

Citizen Science, another KBEC initiative, employs a corps of volunteers to monitor the bay’s water quality. TidePool Investigation educates visitors on the marine life present in Kahalu'u’s tidepools. These educational programs raise awareness and appreciation of Kahalu'u’s diverse ecosystem. KBEC's efforts also include outreach and advocacy centered around a Master Restoration Plan to revive Kahalu'u’s reefs.

KBEC also hosts multiple beach cleanups throughout the year. Silver Spiral Seas was fortunate to participate in one of them, and has provided biodegradable gloves for the community volunteers to use during the cleanup events.

In addition, there is increasingly strong evidence that oxybenzone, an ingredient in chemical sunscreens, is extremely harmful to coral reefs- especially when combined with warming ocean waters. In response, KBEC has initiated a "Sunscreen Swap" which allows visitors to exchange their oxybenzone-based sunscreens for reef-friendly products. In addition, they are working closely with Haereticus Environmental Laboratory to monitor sunscreen pollution in Hawaii. They’ve published a great list of reef-friendly sunscreens on their site, as well.

KBEC has also recently spearheaded an initiative to help protect and replenish the critically impacted cauliflower coral in Hawaii. Estimates range up to 95% mortality for these important reef animals. KBEC is instrumental in closing Kahalu'u Bay to protect the reef during a brief period of spawning of the cauliflower coral in May. The best part? For two years in a row, KBEC volunteers were able to collect gametes during these spawning events, which developed into planulae and settled on substrate. Efforts will continue to work with coral spawning in the coming years.

Microscopic image of planulae raised from the cauliflower coral spawning in Kahalu'u Bay, May 2018.

Microscopic image of planulae raised from the cauliflower coral spawning in Kahalu'u Bay, May 2018.


  • Spring, 2018: Silver Spiral Seas provided banners to keep Kahalu'u Bay an “Oxybenzone Free Zone.”

  • Spring, 2018: Silver Spiral Seas purchases educational pamphlets to help KBEC teach visitors about reef friendly sunscreens.

  • Summer, 2018: Silver Spiral Seas contributes funds towards the scientific monitoring of oxybenzone pollution in the bay.

  • Summer, 2018: Silver Spiral Seas provides a Sony SLR and underwater housing to assist KBEC staff with monitoring the health of the corals and marine life in the bay.

  • Fall, 2018: Silver Spiral Seas donates a year’s supply of biodegradable gloves for KBEC’s beach cleanups with volunteer groups.

  • Fall, 2018: Silver Spiral Seas supplies KBEC with a laminator and supplies to waterproof their educational materials.

  • Fall, 2018: Silver Spiral Seas designs infographics for the NOAA Coral Bleaching Warning issued to the Hawaiian Islands.

  • Fall, 2018: Silver Spiral Seas commissioned a pilot study examining the efficacy of using Structure from Motion (SfM) photogrammetry to survey benthos coverage in two test plots in Kahalu'u Bay.

  • Winter, 2019: Silver Spiral Seas participated in a thermal imaging drone project to examine the influence of submarine groundwater discharge on the water quality in the bay.

  • Ongoing: Silver Spiral Seas is completing video reef surveys in conjunction with the KBEC coral monitoring program.