Protecting Jurassic Period Glass Sponge Reefs: another step towards Canada’s marine conservation target
Vancouver, British Columbia - The Honourable Dominic LeBlanc, P.C., Q.C., M.P., Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, announced the establishment of the new Hecate Strait and Queen Charlotte Sound Glass Sponge Reefs Marine Protected Area to safeguard the globally unique and important aquatic environment that provides key habitats for marine wildlife.
The Hecate Strait and Queen Charlotte Sound Glass Sponge Reefs Marine Protected Area is located between Haida Gwaii and the mainland of British Columbia, within the Pacific North Coast Integrated Management Area (PNCIMA), and is home to several globally unique ancient sponge reefs. The four reefs are made up of large colonies of glass sponges estimated to be 9,000 years old and once thought to be extinct worldwide. The glass sponges are highly fragile in nature, taking up to several hundreds of years to recover from damage, and are at risk of significant impacts from human activities in and around the area. They also offer a vital water filtration service, and provide refuge, habitat and nursery grounds for many aquatic species, including rockfish, finfish and shellfish.
Minister LeBlanc was joined by Kim Conway from Natural Resources Canada and Manfred Krautter from the University of Stuttgart, two of the scientists who participated in the exploration of the reefs while mapping the seafloor. Also present were the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS), the B.C. Seafood Alliance and other stakeholders who have been working together to preserve this unique ocean feature.
This is another step forward for the Government of Canada’s domestic and international marine conservation targets of protecting 5% of marine and coastal areas by 2017 and 10% by 2020. In November 2016 the new Anguniaqvia niqiqyuam Marine Protected Area was designated in Darnley Bay in the Northwest Territories, and in December 2016, the government proposed the designation of St. Anns Bank as a Marine Protected Area.
As part of Canada’s plan to reach its targets, the Government of Canada will continue to establish Marine Protected Areas in both offshore areas and areas currently under pressure from human activities, as well as identify existing and new other area-based measures that play an important role in conserving our oceans. The Government of Canada is also exploring ways to update the Oceans Act to facilitate the designation process for Marine Protected Areas, without sacrificing science, or the opportunity for stakeholders, Indigenous people and the public to provide input.
Photo Legend: On February 16, 2017, Minister LeBlanc announced the designation of the Hecate Strait and Queen Charlotte Sound Glass Sponge Reefs as a Marine Protected Area.
“These ancient reefs highlight the importance of preserving the globally unique and ecologically important treasure in our Canadian oceans. The Hecate Strait and Queen Charlotte Sound Glass Sponge Reefs Marine Protected Area is a great example of what can be accomplished when all interested parties work together towards effective ocean management and marine conservation.”
The Honourable Dominic LeBlanc, P.C., Q.C., M.P., Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard
“For over 16 years, Canadians have been captivated by the story of the “sea of glass” found in the depths of the Pacific Ocean, off the coast of British Columbia. These ancient glass sponge reefs, found nowhere else in the world, were a surprise discovery during seafloor mapping in 1987, and provide a link to the Jurassic era when dinosaurs roamed the earth. CPAWS is very pleased to see Canada’s glass sponge reefs now finally protected through a Marine Protected Area under Canada’s Oceans Act. The glass sponge reefs provide habitat for many ecologically and commercially important species like spot prawns and rockfish. They are also extremely fragile and require the most stringent protection. We are very pleased to see the Government of Canada fulfill its international obligation to protect these globally unique reefs so that they remain a source of wonder for generations to come.”
Sabine Jessen, Oceans Program Director – Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society
“B.C. fishermen have protected these ancient reefs through voluntary and mandatory measures since 2000 so we are fully supportive of their designation today as an MPA under the Oceans Act. We are always committed to conservation and good management.”
Christina Burridge, Executive Director, B.C. Seafood Alliance.
- The Hecate Strait / Queen Charlotte Sound Glass Sponge Reefs Marine Protected Area was designated with the participation of Indigenous peoples, Federal and Provincial government agencies, industry and conservation organizations.
- It is comprised of three distinct zones offering varying levels of protection with the most stringent protection measure applied to areas that need it most.
- The zones are designed to accommodate certain activities that are compatible with the conservation objectives of the MPA, creating a healthy coexistence between fully functioning aquatic systems and human communities.
Fisheries and Oceans Canada
Office of the Minister
Fisheries and Oceans Canada
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