August 20, 2015
According to scientists, glass sponge reefs have been in Howe Sound before any human settlement. Thought to be extinct more than 66 million years ago, their discovery has drawn international attention. Sponge reefs require unique conditions, which may explain their global rarity. Howe Sound provides those unique conditions. Utmost respect for something so rare and fragile is deserving, particularly since they are important habitat for many species such as rockfish and spot prawns.
Local divers in Howe Sound continue to discover new bioherms which are ancient reef mounds, as well as see the destruction of the reefs being caused by prawn traps. Navigating the politics towards protection of the sponge reefs is underway by groups such as the Marine Life Sanctuary Society, the Vancouver Aquarium Howe Sound research team, CPAWS, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, the Province of B.C. and more.
Communities around Howe Sound have indicated their support for the expansion of the Halkett Bay Marine Provincial Park on Gambier Island, which will help protect reefs that are depths shallow enough to visit and study using traditional scuba methods. This summer, DFO implemented fishing closures to protect nine glass sponge reefs in the Strait of Georgia and Howe Sound which is a good first step. Education is ongoing to ensure these areas are known and avoided by recreational prawners. The next step is for permanent closure of these areas in order to prevent destruction of the reefs.
Local Howe Sound citizen scientists, Glen Dennison and his team have been volunteering many hours and boat time to diving in Howe Sound and sharing knowledge of their wonderful discoveries. Glen’s book is available for purchase and is a good read even for non-divers. All publisher proceeds go to the Underwater Council of B.C.
You can help advance the protection of these rare ancient sponge reefs in Howe Sound. Right now, if you represent an organization, write a letter of support “Our organization is pleased to support the addition of the foreshore to Halkett Bay Provincial Park in order to protect the sponge reefs.” and send it to MLSS. Letters of support for further protection will be requested soon.