Draft regulations too weak to save glass sponge reefs

  • Jul. 17, 2015 4:00 p.m.

By Stacey MarpleHaida Gwaii ObserverAn environmental group says regulations set up by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to govern a proposed Marine Protected Area (MPA) over glass sponge reefs in the Hecate Strait are too weak to be effective. The extremely fragile reef is the only of its kind in the world and is thought to be nearly 9,000 years old. The protection of this area directly coincides with a Government of Canada initiative to strengthen marine and coastal conservation, as outlined under the National Conservation Plan. Launched in 2014, the plan included dedicated funding of $37 million over five years for marine coastal conservation. In a press release Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Gail Shea said the Ottawa’s new step towards the designation of the Hecate Strait and Queen Charlotte Sound Glass Sponge Reefs as a Marine Protected Area is evidence of the Conservative government’s “commitment to protect the unique features of our oceans for future generations.” However, the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) says that draft regulations released June 26 will not do enough to save reefs. “The permitted activities under the draft regulations present an unacceptable risk. The proposed MPA covers a small area, and the sponge reefs are globally unique, very fragile and extremely important. A huge proportion of the ocean will still remain open for fishing if this MPA is completely closed,” says Sabine Jessen, CPAWS’ ocean program director. CPAWS has been working for over 15 years to get the reefs protected and is recommending that bottom trolling or other types of fishing should not be allowed within 200 metres of the reef because the risk of raising sediment could choke the sponges to death. “If we want a healthy fishing industry in our province, we need to take precautionary measures to protect important sea nurseries such as the glass sponge reef,” Ms. Jessen said in a press release.  Sponge reefs were thought to be extinct until their discovery in the late 1980’s. The Geological Survey of Canada discovered four major reef complexes of glass sponge reefs in Hecate Strait and Queen Charlotte sound. The reefs serve as a modern link to reefs that were common during the Jurassic era. Reefs the size of the ones found in Hecate Strait and Queen Charlotte Sound have not been found elsewhere in the world, which environmental groups feel is evidence of their global importance for protection.

Just Posted

Seven arrested in drug trafficking investigation

Queen Charlotte RCMP arrested seven people in connection to a drug trafficking… Continue reading

More sailings coming to Haida Gwaii

The B.C. government says Haida Gwaii’s two BC Ferries routes are among… Continue reading

More sailings coming to 10 BC Ferries’ routes

Transportation Minister Claire Trevena said the sailings were originally cut in 2014

Mold shuts down construction at QC supportive housing project

Construction of the new 19-unit modular housing complex in Queen Charlotte has… Continue reading

Spring fishery closures mulled for south coast

Fewer fish are returning to rivers and more conservation needed, say feds

National Energy Board approves Trans Mountain pipeline again

Next step includes cabinet voting on the controversial expansion

Girl heard saying ‘Help my Dad’ in suspicious radio message on Vancouver Island

Police asking for help following mysterious signals from somewhere between Comox and Sayward

Fraser Health closes all pools at Harrison Hot Springs

Public pool available after all five mineral pools closed until Monday

No treatment for highly infectious measles, says doctor

10 cases of measles confirmed in Vancouver as of Friday

Two more measles cases confirmed in Vancouver

It brings the number of total cases within the city connected to the outbreak to ten

B.C. Special Olympics officially underway in Vernon

Athlete’s Oath: “Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”

Vancouver Aquarium wants your help to name a baby killer whale

The public helped name Springer’s first calf, Spirit, and is being asked to help with the second

Guards protest firing of fellow officers charged with assault at B.C. prison

Corrections officers demonstrated in Maple Ridge on Friday afternoon

Skier dies at Revelstoke Mountain Resort

Cause of death for young man has not been released

Most Read