Government Protection for B.C.'S Glass Sponge Reefs Not Enough: Group

By Meissner, Dirk | The Canadian Press, June 26, 2015 | Go to article overview

Government Protection for B.C.'S Glass Sponge Reefs Not Enough: Group


Meissner, Dirk, The Canadian Press


B.C. rare glass reefs need more protection: group

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VICTORIA - Glass sponge reefs in British Columbia's Hecate Strait that were once considered extinct are now the focus of a federal protection effort that a conservation group calls too weak to save the fragile undersea treasures.

The delicate growths are the world's only living examples of the large sponge reefs that have been around since the Jurassic Period. The B.C. reefs date back more than 9,000 years, and when scientists made the discovery in Hecate Strait, the find was compared to locating a herd of dinosaurs roaming on land.

Some of the white-, grey- or taupe-coloured sponges resemble coral, while others look like delicate Elizabethan neck ruffles or the pleated tulle of a ballerina's skirt.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans moved Friday to declare the area where the reefs are located in Hecate Strait and nearby Queen Charlotte Sound off Haida Gwaii as marine protected areas to ensure the reefs are not disturbed by human activity, especially fishing.

Fisheries and Oceans Minister Gail Shea said in a statement the proposed marine-protected-area regulations are a major step towards ensuring the preservation of the reefs, which cover about 1,000 square kilometres. A 30-day public comment period concludes July 26.

Jeff MacDonald, DFO's oceans and fisheries policy director general, said in an interview that the government is formally proposing under the Oceans Act to protect the glass sponge reefs, which have been determined as unique in Canada's oceans.

He said DFO proposes a core protection zone from all human activity. It would cover the seabed, as well as soil and water around the reefs, and up to 40 metres of water above the reefs.

"We're covering a huge area of the ocean around the reefs where there will be no human activity whatsoever," MacDonald said. …

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