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Oceans Wise report recommends implementation of full protection for all of Howe Sound’s glass sponge reefs

Unceded Coast Salish Territory/Vancouver, BC — A new report from Ocean Wise has updated the health status of Howe Sound for 2020. While there is cautious optimism with some health ratings improving, the Ocean Wise report still has many labelled as critical or cautious, including  glass sponge reefs which “remain vulnerable to mechanical damage and climate change.” The report recommends implementing full protection of glass sponge reefs throughout all of Howe Sound.

Long thought extinct, glass sponge reefs mainly grow off BC’s coast.  Not only do these reefs provide important habitat for ocean life such as prawns and rockfish, they also filter ocean water, provide fertilizer for plankton, and store carbon.

Glass sponge reefs are particularly vulnerable to shattering from bottom contact fishing such as prawn traps as they are composed of the same material that makes glass.  A DFO survey, in cooperation with the Marine Life Sanctuaries Society, not only discovered a dead reef near Ellesmere Creek at the north end of Howe Sound, but found historical damage from fishing activities in all of the surveyed reefs.

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Oceans Act enforces glass sponge reef marine protected area regulations

The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society – British Columbia (CPAWS-BC) welcomes the conviction of illegal fishing in the Hecate Strait and Queen Charlotte Sound Glass Sponge Reefs Marine Protected Area (Hecate MPA).

Illegal commercial groundfish harvesting was found to have occurred in the marine protected areas. A fine of $20,000 for illegal activity prohibited under the Hecate MPA Regulations, the first conviction under the Oceans Act nationwide. An additional fine, under the Fisheries Act, of $25,000 for possessing illegally caught fish was ordered to be paid.

“We would like to thank Fisheries and Oceans Canada for enforcing MPA regulations under the Oceans Act and protecting BC’s glass sponge reefs,” says Ross Jameson, Ocean Conservation Manager for CPAWS-BC.

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