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Five more glass sponge reefs in Howe Sound protected by new closures

As conservationists and researchers celebrate the announcement of new protections for five more glass sponge reefs in Howe Sound, several societies, including CPAWS-BC, are also calling for more enforcement in the fragile habitat areas. 

ID: Underwater photo of white tubular glass sponges with new reefs circled

Damage likely caused by bottom contact fishing, as seen on a glass sponge reef in Halkett Bay Marine Provincial Park.Adam Taylor/MLSS photo

All Átl’ka7tsem/Howe Sound Glass Sponge Reefs Now Protected From Bottom Contact Fishing

The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society – British Columbia (CPAWS-BC) is pleased to see five new protections announced for glass sponge reefs in Átl’ka7tsem/Howe Sound. These new fishing closures prohibit bottom contact fishing such as trawling and prawn trapping from destroying these rare and ancient ecosystems.

ID: blue outlines around protected glass sponge reefs o fHowe Sound map

Map of Atl’ka7tsem / How Sound by Jacob Chila, GIS Analyst at CPAWS-BC


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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