Kelvin Grove glass sponges at risk from damage by fishing gear

May 23 2015, in the early morning a commercial prawn fishing vessel deployed a longline set of prawn traps over the Kelvin Grove sponge bioherm near Lions Bay. Drop camera footage (see video above) has documented high abundance of glass sponges in this area, with some large sponges likely over a metre tall. The sponge reefs that exists here are vulnerable to damage from bottom contact fishing gears and in this instance were likely damaged as prawn traps landed on top of them. The drop camera footage was taken earlier this year and has documented broken sponges, that may be from bottom contact fishing gear from recreational and commercial fisheries in Howe Sound, such as  prawn traps and cannonballs from downriggers.

3D bathymetry map of Kelvin Grove seamount. Please avoid using bottom contact fishing gear (e.g., traps and cannon balls) in this area
3D bathymetric map of Kelvin Grove seamount. Please avoid using bottom contact fishing gear (e.g., traps and cannon balls) in this area
Prawn traps deployed in the area of the Kelvin Grove glass sponge bioherm
Prawn traps deployed in the area of the Kelvin Grove glass sponge reef

Glass sponges are important habitat for a variety of fish and invertebrate species and damage of the sponge reefs may slow the recovery of rockfish populations in Howe Sound. The heartache in this whole operation is that recreational and commercial fishing in the area is legal. The recent closures of two sponge reefs in Howe Sound do not include Kelvin Grove, nor several other areas with glass sponge reefs. Without adequate protection, these reefs remain at risk  from damage from fishing gear. Important habitat for rockfish and other species may be destroyed. Lack of education about life on the ocean floor hides the fact that this type of harvesting can be extremely harmful to sensitive marine life that lives on the bottom.

Could this be a case of “existence education” increasing the value of the reefs and demonstrating that the BC glass sponge reefs are unique in the world, and by doing so increasing their value infinitely? If the human race started to be less anthropocentric we might give the rest of the planet a chance to live and thrive, particularly life in the oceans.

 

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