Safeguarding our future through the Oceans Act

News release

Map of the Hecate Strait and Queen Charlotte Sounds Glass Sponge Reefs MPA and area entered as evidence in Court
Map of the Hecate Strait and Queen Charlotte Sounds Glass Sponge Reefs MPA and area entered as evidence in Court

January 29, 2020

Prince Rupert, BC - The Government of Canada is safeguarding the long-term health and productivity of Canada’s oceans and fisheries, by protecting our country’s wildlife, biodiversity, and the habitats that support them.

The glass sponge reefs in the Hecate Strait and Queen Charlotte Sound were designated a Marine Protected Area (MPA) in 2017, and are contributing to Canada’s conservation goal to protect 25 per cent of our oceans by 2025. Illegal commercial groundfish harvesting in the Northern Reef Core Protection Zone and Adaptive Management Protection Zone of the reefs has resulted in the first conviction under the Oceans Act nationwide. MPAs are legally protected from certain activities that can cause harm to its specific marine ecosystem.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada has a mandate to protect and conserve marine resources and to prosecute offenders under the Fisheries Act. It ensures and promotes compliance with the Act and other laws and regulations through a combination of land, air, and sea patrols, as well as education and awareness activities. These actions are to ensure Canadians can continue to enjoy and benefit from our country’s natural riches for generations to come.

Anyone with information can call the toll-free violation reporting line at 1-800-465-4336, or email the details to

Quick facts

  • Commercial groundfish harvester Michael Bullock was convicted of fishing in the Hecate Strait and Queen Charlotte Sound Glass Sponge Reefs Marine Protected Area (Hecate MPA).

  • The Honorable Judge Dwight Stewart ordered Mr. Bullock, captain of the commercial Halibut fishing vessel Hopefull, to pay a fine of $20,000 for illegal activity prohibited under the Hecate MPA Regulations, and ordered an additional fine, under the Fisheries Act, of $25,000 for possessing illegally caught fish. The final conviction was made October 15, 2019, making it the first under the Oceans Act nationwide.

  • The illegal activity occurred between July 25 and 28, 2017, and was discovered on review of at-sea observation data, which is a mandatory component of commercial groundfish fisheries. An electronic monitoring system onboard the vessel records all fishing activity and is audited by a third party, who then provides the information to fishery officers who proceeded with an investigation.

  • The Hecate MPA was designated under Canada’s Oceans Act in February 2017 to protect sensitive glass sponge reefs that are estimated to be 9000 years old and provides a rich marine ecosystem for multiple species.

  • In recognition of the reefs’ outstanding geological, paleontological, and biological universal value, the Hecate MPA was nominated as a Tentative UNESCO World Heritage Site (WHS) in April 2018 under the World Heritage Convention.

  • Accurate, timely and independently verified catch information supports effective fisheries management and the long-term sustainability of the groundfish resource, encourages responsible fishing practices, and supports Canada’s international obligations.

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Media Relations
Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Pacific Region
Tel: (604) 666-1746   

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