Canada creates marine protected area off coast of British Columbia

Published on
May 2, 2017

The Canadian government has created a marine protected area for a fragile reef system located in British Columbia’s Hecate Strait and Queen Charlotte Sound.

The so-called “Sea of Glass” is a 9,000 year-old glass sponge reef, believed to be the only large-form, living example of its type in the world. The reef reaches the height of an eight-story building in parts and covers around 1,000 kilometers of ocean floor.  

The MPA, officially created in late February after months of public dialogue in Canada, bans bottom-contact fishing activity within 200 meters of the reef structures “until it can be proven” that such activity is not harmful to the reef. The designation also implements more stringent measures for midwater trawl fisheries.

Scientists estimate that about 50 percent of the glass sponge reefs have already been destroyed by bottom trawlers and other heavy fishing gear, according to the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS).

In parallel with the MPA, the SponGES project, a consortium of researchers from European Union, Canada and the United States, will perform a five-year, EUR 10 million (USD ) study of the biology, ecology, genetics, physiology and bio-activity of the reef, funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 program. 

“We are overjoyed to see these reefs finally get the protection they need as Canada’s newest Marine Protected Area,” CPAWS National Ocean Program Director Sabine Jessen said. “The reefs are an international treasure, they are globally unique, incredibly important, and deserving of strong protection so that they can remain a source of awe and wonder for generations to come.” 

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