Detail of one of B.C.’s 25 known glass sponge reefs. The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society-BC is calling on the federal government to extend refuge protections for six newly discovered reefs. Sally Leys photo

Detail of one of B.C.’s 25 known glass sponge reefs. The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society-BC is calling on the federal government to extend refuge protections for six newly discovered reefs. Sally Leys photo

B.C. group renews call for protection of newly discovered glass sponge reefs

DFO says public consultation will play heavy role in future protection measures

The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society has renewed its call for stronger protections of B.C.’s glass sponge reefs, amid mounting threats from bottom-contact fisheries, climate change and the recent discovery of a dead sponge garden in Howe Sound.

Once thought to be extinct since the Jurassic period, the 25 glass sponge reefs along B.C.’s coast are the planet’s last-known in existence, filtering billions of liters of ocean water daily and providing critical habitat for an array of sealife including prawns, crab and groundfish.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada has designated 17 of reefs in the Georgia Strait and Howe Sound as marine refuges and imposed various fishing closures and restrictions.

Last spring the department confirmed the existence of six more reefs in Howe Sound (one of which was dead), but have yet to extend any protections against fishing activities.

The B.C. chapter of CPAWS says DFO needs to act.

“If we don’t move on this fast enough…we don’t want fishing events, like prawn traps being dropped on glass sponge,” CPAWS-BC ocean campaigner Carlo Acuña said. “Right now if these events do happen there’s no legal recourse to get them to stop, or have them to pay for any damage.”

READ MORE: Man hooks massive fine fishing in MPA of Haida Gwaii

He added incidents involving protected reefs last month have elevated the urgency.

Between July 2 and 4 DFO seized about 300 prawn traps originating from one commercial vessel within the Sechelt Glass Sponge Reef Closure. During the investigation officers discovered and seized an additional 250-300 traps in the area along with 400 lbs of live prawns.

Because the investigations are ongoing DFO cannot comment on any potential charges.

In addition to protecting the new southern reefs, CPAWS is asking DFO to extend the buffer zone around those in Hecate Strait, off Haida Gwaii,. The northern reefs are B.C.’s largest, covering 1,000 square-kilometres and reaching eight stories tall. They were given full Marine Protected Area (MPA) designation in 2017, but CPAWS says new research shows extending the buffer from two kilometres to six kilometres is vital to protect the structures from sediment stirred by nearby bottom contact fishing

“By expanding it to six kilometres, it’s actually a really small percentage — I think it’s less than a half per cent of B.C. ocean that’s being taken away, a very very small amount compared to what’s able to be fished,” Acuña said.

READ MORE: Climate change is a “serious and immediate threat” to the 9,000-year old sponges: study

Researchers from the University of Alberta recently discovered a new species of sponge epibionts in the Hecate Strait, strengthening CPAWS’ call for the extension. This so-called demosponge encrusts 20 per cent of the surface of the glass sponge, a number high enough to necessitate further studies into the species’ importance to the reefs.

Meanwhile, a recent UBC study found glass sponge mortality is highly susceptible to slight shifts in their environment brought on by ocean acidification and global warming.

In an email to Black Press Media DFO stated existing protections demonstrates the government’s commitment to the health of all glass sponge reefs, but future decisions will be guided by DFO policy and public consultation.

“[It will] take into account conservation objectives, an ecosystem approach, socio-economic considerations, and the views and interests of Indigenous groups, commercial and recreational harvesters, and other interest groups.”



quinn.bender@blackpress.ca

EnvironmentFisheries and Oceans CanadaOcean Protection

 

A diver inspects one of B.C.’s glass sponge reefs. The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society-BC is calling on the federal government to extend refuge protections for six newly discovered reefs. Dale Sanders photo

A diver inspects one of B.C.’s glass sponge reefs. The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society-BC is calling on the federal government to extend refuge protections for six newly discovered reefs. Dale Sanders photo

Just Posted

Ucluelet local Geoff Johnson snapped this photo of a Risso’s dolphin that washed up near Chesterman Beach in Tofino on Wednesday, Jan. 13. (Geoff Johnson photo)
Washed up Risso’s dolphin offers glimpse into “whole other world” near Tofino

“It’s like a UFO crash landed and you can come look at it”

This weekend Amy Pye is holding a virtual book launch for her latest children’s book, <em>Bruce the Silly Goose</em>. (Photo courtesy Amy Pye)
Nanaimo writer and illustrator pens children’s book about COVID-19 safety

Amy Pye to hold online book launch for ‘Bruce the Silly Goose’

Coaches with the Juan de Fuca Minor Hockey association have had to get creative during their weekly practices to keep players interested and improving their skills without physical contact. (Damian Kowalewich photo)
Vancouver Island minor hockey coach shares what it’s like on the ice without parents, fans

Most practices consist of relay races, goalie shots and passing drills

3L Developments has stated it is pulling the plug on its plans to build a residential neighbourhood in the Stotan Falls area. The company has repeatedly offered to turn the Stotan Falls area into parkland, if the CVRD were to amend its Regional Growth Strategy to allow for a residential community to be built in the area. The CVRD has steadfastly turned down the development company. File photo.
Plugged pulled on decade-old Comox Valley development project

3L Developments say there will be no further development applications filed for Stotan Falls

The profitability of Victoria International Airport dropped by almost $17 million in 2020 because of COVID-19. (Black Press Media File)
Victoria International Airport revenues in a tailspin

While airport made $9.2 million in profits 2019, COVID-19 brought estimated losses of $7.5 million

A scene from “Canada and the Gulf War: In their own words,” a video by The Memory Project, a program of Historica Canada, is shown in this undated illustration. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Historica Canada
New video marks Canada’s contributions to first Gulf War on 30th anniversary

Veterans Affairs Canada says around 4,500 Canadian military personnel served during the war

Williams Lake physician Dr. Ivan Scrooby and medical graduate student Vionarica Gusti hold up the COSMIC Bubble Helmet. Both are part of the non-profit organization COSMIC Medical which has come together to develop devices for treating patients with COVID-19. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Group of B.C. doctors, engineers developing ‘bubble helmet’ for COVID-19 patients

The helmet could support several patients at once, says the group

A 17-year-old snowmobiler used his backcountry survival sense in preparation to spend the night on the mountain near 100 Mile House Saturday, Jan. 16, 2021 after getting lost. (South Cariboo Search and Rescue Facebook photo)
Teen praised for backcountry survival skills after getting lost in B.C.’s Cariboo mountains

“This young man did everything right after things went wrong.”

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole holds a press conference on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa on December 10, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
No place for ‘far right’ in Conservative Party, Erin O’Toole says

O’Toole condemned the Capitol attack as ‘horrifying’ and sought to distance himself and the Tories from Trumpism

A passer by walks in High Park, in Toronto, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. This workweek will kick off with what’s fabled to be the most depressing day of the year, during one of the darkest eras in recent history. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
‘Blue Monday’ getting you down? Exercise may be the cure, say experts

Many jurisdictions are tightening restrictions to curb soaring COVID-19 case counts

Jackie Hildering, whale researcher with the Marine Education and Research Society, and Nanaimo Area Land Trust will present the Return of Giants, a webinar about the humpback whales’ return from the brink of extinction and how boaters can help protect them. (Jackie Hildering/MERS photo taken under Marine Mammal License MML-42)
‘Return of the Giants:’ B.C. getting a second chance to coexist with humpback whales

‘Marine Detective’ partners with Nanaimo stewardship group on webinar

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
COVID-19: Provinces work on revised plans as Pfizer-BioNTech shipments to slow down

Anita Anand said she understands and shares Canadians’ concerns about the drug company’s decision

Tourists take photographs outside the British Columbia Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday August 26, 2011. A coalition of British Columbia tourism industry groups is urging the provincial government to not pursue plans to ban domestic travel to fight the spread of COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. travel ban will harm struggling tourism sector, says industry coalition

B.C. government would have to show evidence a travel ban is necessary

(Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
‘Targeted’ shooting in Coquitlam leaves woman in hospital

The woman suffered non-life threatening injuries in what police believe to be a targeted shooting Saturday morning

Most Read