Clockwise, from top left, is a Farrea sea sponge and deep-sea sunflower star, an Agonidae poacher and squat lobsters around an orange sea pen, and some benthopectinidae sea stars and boot sponges. (Fisheries and Oceans Canada/DFO Science)

SG̱aan Ḵinghlas-Bowie Seamount marine area receives renewed protection

Plan agreed to boost conservation efforts at ecosystem off the Haida coast

The Haida Nation and the government of Canada announced a Co-Management plan on Tuesday to provide protection for the marine wilderness of the SGaan Kinghlas–Bowie Seamount Marine Protected Area.

The Bowie Seamount, known in the Haida language as SG̱aan Ḵinghlas — meaning “Supernatural Being Looking Outward” — is a massive underwater volcano that lies around 180 km west of Haida Gwaii. At its tip the volcano is just 24 metres below the surface, making it the shallowest seamount in Canadian waters. However, the base drops to a depth of more than 3,000 metres below sea level. The area features an abundance of marine life, including rockfish, whales, sea lions, anemones, sea stars, and rare corals and sponges.

The location of the SGaan Kinghlas–Bowie Seamount Marine Protected Area west of Haida Gwaii.

READ MORE: Study tracks underwater shipping noise at SG̱aan Ḵinghlas-Bowie Seamount

The area was originally designated as a Marine Protected Area in 2008. The four main priorities of the new plan revolve around cooperative governance and adaptive co-management, conservation research, monitoring and education.

In an example of work already done to achieve the goals of the agreement, last year the Haida Nation and Canadian government closed all bottom contact fishing in the area in order to protect the sensitive benthic habitat, which includes cold-water corals and sponges.

READ MORE: Research expedition to explore seamounts off Haida Gwaii

Tuesday’s commitment was billed by the two governments as a decade’s worth of work to ensure this area rich in biodiversity received the proper conservation and protection.

“SG̱aan Ḵinghlas is a special place for the Haida Nation with spiritual significance, unique species and sensitive habitat that is protected and will now be managed for future generations,” Gaagwiis Jason Alsop, president of the Haida Nation, said.

“The establishment of the SG̱aan Ḵinghlas–Bowie Seamount Marine Protected Area Management Plan is a very important step towards ocean conservation and a renewed relationship between the Government of Canada and Indigenous Peoples,” Jonathan Wilkinson, minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, said.

Alex Kurial | Journalist
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