An announcement by the federal government of new fishing closures and other protection measures in Atl’ka7tsem/Howe Sound provides a significant contribution to the recovery and health of unique and fragile glass sponge reef ecosystems in the area.
“Protecting these spectacular and important sponge reef habitats will support the recovery of marine life in Atl’ka7tsem/Howe Sound, which has suffered from decades of human activity that degraded many ecological values,” David Suzuki Foundation science projects manager Bill Wareham said.
The proposed fishing closure, which includes a 150-metre buffer zone, will enable conservation and give scientists the opportunity to more fully study the reefs’ scale, configuration and function.
“These sponge reefs are globally unique, and their contribution to overall ocean ecosystem health is only beginning to be understood,” Wareham said. “With closures like these, we’re safeguarding not only the sponge reefs but also the marine life and fisheries that are inextricably linked to the health of the reefs.”
Glass sponge reefs were thought to have been extinct for 60 million years until scientists discovered them in the 1980s in B.C.’s coastal waters. In a recent conservation needs and opportunities analysis for Alt’ka7tsem/Howe Sound completed by the David Suzuki Foundation and the Ocean Wise Coastal Ocean Research Institute, the sponge reefs were identified as high-value ecosystem features that require additional conservation and management measures.
“Much more work remains to be done to ensure the best science possible is applied to support both long-term conservation and sustainable fishing livelihoods, but this is a positive step,” Wareham said. “We are grateful and thank the dozens of local citizens, community groups, environmental organizations and Fisheries and Oceans Canada representatives who helped discover, research and encourage the protection of these reefs.”
Additional David Suzuki Foundation resources on Alt’ka7tsem/Howe Sound:
Media release and images provided by Brendan Glauser, David Suzuki Foundation.