Proposed Abstract Title

Saving Glass Sponge Reefs in the Salish Sea

Type of Presentation

Oral

Session Title

General Marine Habitat

Location

2016SSEC

Description

Living glass sponge reefs were first discovered in northern B.C. in 1987. Nine reefs were discovered in the Salish Sea in 2001 and since then several more have been discovered in Howe Sound. Prior to this they were thought to have gone extinct 40 million years ago. Although glass sponges are found worldwide, reef-forming glass sponges are unique to British Columbia and Alaska. The reefs are important biogenic habitats, providing critical habitat for many species, including endangered rockfish and commercially important prawns. The reefs also play an important role in nutrient cycling; glass sponges are tremendously efficient filter feeders removing up to 90% of bacterial cells from seawater, and a single reef can filter the equivalent of an Olympic-size swimming pool every 40-70 seconds. The reefs qualify as Ecologically and Biologically Significant Areas (EBSAs) as defined by the UN Convention for Biological Diversity and as such are priorities for conservation.

CPAWS-BC has been working to raise awareness and secure full legal protection for glass sponge reefs for more than a decade. Our work has included: innovative outreach events, including a submarine dive to the reefs; facilitating the development of the Canada’s Pacific Region Cold-Water Coral and Sponge Conservation Strategy; collaborating with and connecting scientists, stakeholders and decision makers; and participating in the stakeholder consultation process. In June 2015, nine glass sponge reefs in the Salish Sea were finally protected through permanent fishing closures that prohibit all bottom contact fishing within 150 metres. Fishing closures are the first step in securing full protection as Marine Protected Areas. The more recently discovered reefs still require protection. Here we review the challenges, opportunities and successes we have faced in our work to protect the glass sponge reefs and share a number of recommendations and lessons for success in future efforts.

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Comments

Website - http://cpawsbc.org/campaigns/glass-sponge-reefs

Media Release for glass sponge closures - http://cpawsbc.org/news/conservation-groups-welcome-protection-for-strait-of-georgias-unique-glass

Fishing closure announcement from Fisheries and Oceans Canada - http://www.pac.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/oceans/protection/sponge_reef-recif_eponge-eng.html

Pacific Cold Water Coral and Sponge Strategy - http://www.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/Library/344719.pdf

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Saving Glass Sponge Reefs in the Salish Sea

2016SSEC

Living glass sponge reefs were first discovered in northern B.C. in 1987. Nine reefs were discovered in the Salish Sea in 2001 and since then several more have been discovered in Howe Sound. Prior to this they were thought to have gone extinct 40 million years ago. Although glass sponges are found worldwide, reef-forming glass sponges are unique to British Columbia and Alaska. The reefs are important biogenic habitats, providing critical habitat for many species, including endangered rockfish and commercially important prawns. The reefs also play an important role in nutrient cycling; glass sponges are tremendously efficient filter feeders removing up to 90% of bacterial cells from seawater, and a single reef can filter the equivalent of an Olympic-size swimming pool every 40-70 seconds. The reefs qualify as Ecologically and Biologically Significant Areas (EBSAs) as defined by the UN Convention for Biological Diversity and as such are priorities for conservation.

CPAWS-BC has been working to raise awareness and secure full legal protection for glass sponge reefs for more than a decade. Our work has included: innovative outreach events, including a submarine dive to the reefs; facilitating the development of the Canada’s Pacific Region Cold-Water Coral and Sponge Conservation Strategy; collaborating with and connecting scientists, stakeholders and decision makers; and participating in the stakeholder consultation process. In June 2015, nine glass sponge reefs in the Salish Sea were finally protected through permanent fishing closures that prohibit all bottom contact fishing within 150 metres. Fishing closures are the first step in securing full protection as Marine Protected Areas. The more recently discovered reefs still require protection. Here we review the challenges, opportunities and successes we have faced in our work to protect the glass sponge reefs and share a number of recommendations and lessons for success in future efforts.

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