More progess needed to protect special Hecate Strait reefs

  • Feb. 8, 2013 11:00 a.m.

A Canadian environmental group is raising concerns about the rare Glass Sponge reefs close to the islands of Haida Gwaii. The delicate reefs were thought to be extinct when they were discovered in 1987. The four reefs are over 9,000 years old and cover 1,000 square kilometres of seafloor in Hecate Strait and Queen Charlotte Sound. The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society issued a press release in January saying the federal government has made limited progress in the past 18 months on protecting important marine areas, including the reefs. “Despite progress being made, we remain highly concerned for the Glass Sponge Reefs which are being adversely affected by sedimentation caused by nearby trawling,” said Sabine Jenson, CPAWS national oceans program manager. The reefs were one of 12 marine areas CPAWS recommended for protection by December 2012. The organization also recommended that Canada invest $35 million a year to create a network of protected marine areas. “The sites we identified 18 months ago have long been studied, and the time was ripe to move ahead with protection measures, so it is frustrating that the pace of action has been so slow. And with cutbacks now to budgets at Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Environment Canada and Parks Canada, we are seriously concerned about the government’s capacity to move ahead in creating and managing effective marine protected areas,” said Ms Jessen. “It is like cutting off our noses to spite our faces. Marine protected areas are key to ensuring healthy stocks of fish and other forms of marine life for the future. There is absolutely no long term financial gain in failing to invest in marine protection.”