Hecate Strait and Queen Charlotte Sound Glass Sponge Reefs Marine Protected Area
Fisheries and Oceans Canada designated Hecate Strait and Queen Charlotte Sound Glass Sponge Reefs as the newest Marine Protected Area (MPA), as part of the Government of Canada’s commitment to creating a national network of MPAs under the Oceans Act and reaching its domestic and international marine conservation targets.
This new MPA represents 2,410 km² of protected aquatic territory along the Pacific North Coast, southeast of Haida Gwaii, between the northern and southern entrance to the Douglas Channel. The area is nationally and internationally recognized as an important and exceptional marine habitat as the reefs are made up of large colonies of glass sponges that are estimated to be 9,000 years old. The sponge reefs provide an essential water filtration service as well as refuge, habitat and nursery grounds for aquatic species, including commercially important rockfish, finfish and shellfish species.
The regulations that govern this MPA provide for the conservation and protection of the biological diversity, structural habitat and ecosystem function of the glass sponge reefs through the management of human activities. The regulations prohibit any activity that disturbs, damages, or destroys living marine organisms or habitat within the area, with the exception of some activities that do not compromise the MPA conservation objectives, such as some marine scientific research or safety and security measures.
The MPA is comprised of three spatially distinct components to encompass the northern reef, the two central reefs, and the southern reef. The regulations apply a zoned approach that offers varying levels of protection to the MPA and provides core protection to the sponge reefs.
Process to Become an MPA
Consultations to consider the reefs as an Area of Interest (AOI) were initiated in January 2009. These consultations took place over several months and included presentations to multi-stakeholder groups and meetings with key stakeholders, First Nations and governments.
In June 2010, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans officially identified the Hecate Strait and Queen Charlotte Sound Glass Sponge Reefs as an AOI for possible MPA designation within the Pacific North Coast Integrated Management Area (PNCIMA). Protection of the glass sponge reefs is also supported by the Pacific Region Cold-Water Coral and Sponge Conservation Strategy.
Following the AOI announcement, Fisheries and Oceans Canada undertook an analysis of the ecological, social, economic and cultural values in the area and an assessment of the pressures from human activities and their impact on the biological diversity, structural habitat and ecosystem function of the glass sponge reefs. The outcome of this analysis formed the basis of consultation with affected and interested stakeholders and partners and informed the development of the regulations.
In June 2015, the proposed MPA regulations were pre-published in Canada Gazette, Part I, launching the official 30-day public consultation period.
Commitment to Marine Protected Areas and Our Oceans
This new MPA demonstrates the Government of Canada’s commitment to collaboration with local communities while increasing environmental protection of Canada’s marine and coastal areas. Budget 2016 included $123.7 million over five years to support marine conservation activities. This includes the designation of new MPAs under the Oceans Act and developing new national parks and National Marine Conservation Areas.
Through this investment, the Government of Canada will work with partners to increase the amount of Canada’s protected marine and coastal areas to 5% by 2017 and 10% by 2020. The Government is dedicated to continuing to work with provincial and territorial governments, Indigenous peoples, industry, academia and environmental non-government organizations to meet its 2020 commitments.
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