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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

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

City of Campbell River adopts Housing Needs Report but not the recommendations

‘A report is only as good as the data upon which it is based’

UPDATE: North Island Green Party nomination still to be determined

Moen says all issues should be viewed through environmental lens

Single-lane alternating traffic in place along Hwy. 19A project

Traffic changes in effect until end of the year: City

Woman injured during rollover on Hwy. 28

Incident took place Saturday evening near Strathcona Lodge

Demonstrators voice displeasure over mask-use in Campbell River

Sunday afternoon event has held by Hugs Over Masks Nation

Weekend sees 267 cases, 3 deaths in B.C.; Dr. Henry says events leading to COVID spread

There are currently 1,302 active cases in B.C., while 3,372 people are under public health monitoring

Lightning strike: Tampa Bay blanks Dallas 2-0 to win Stanley Cup

Hedman wins Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Shawnigan Lake’s Kubica gets 25 to life for murder in California

Former Shawnigan Lake man convicted of killing woman in 1990

Liberals seek to fast track new COVID-19 aid bill after CERB expires

Government secured NDP support for legislation by hiking amount of benefits by $100 to $500 per week

B.C. VOTES 2020: Echoes of HST in B.C. debate over sales tax

Cannabis, tobacco, luxury cars still taxed in B.C. Liberal plan

She warned her son about toxic drugs, then he was dead

Donna Bridgman’s son died at the age of 38 in Vancouver

Most Read