DFO Ecosystems Approach Officer, Aleria Ladwig, made an important announcement on Friday (September 21, 2017) to fisheries stakeholders for which MLSS has been waiting with great anticipation!! DFO has determined that the 13 glass sponge reefs discovered in Howe Sound by MLSS and partners between 1996 and 2015 are sufficiently biologically significant to warrant a precautionary management approach for fisheries. DFO requests the public to voluntarily avoid fishing in these 13 areas with bottom contact fishing gear until further research and consultation with First Nations and stakeholders is completed; hopefully by the Winter of 2017. Bottom contact fishing gear includes crab by trap; shrimp by trap; prawn by trap; shrimp by trawl; scallop by trawl; and groundfish by trawl, hook & line, and trap.
The very first Howe Sound glass sponge reef was discovered by Glen Dennison in 1996 during a deep SCUBA dive. At that time Glen was a Director with the Underwater Council of British Columbia (UCBC). He did not release this discovery until about 15 years later while talking with Jeff Marliave at the Vancouver Aquarium. Glen discovered all of the sponge reef locations in Howe Sound (with the exception of the inshore east Defence Island site) and had mapped the sites well before the 2014 Strait of Georgia and Howe Sound Glass Sponge Reef Conservation Initiative began.
MLSS is enheartened with the progress that DFO is making to protect these unique, fragile glass sponge ecosystems in Howe Sound that in turn, protect and encourage population recovery and sustainability of significant aboriginal, commercial and recreational fisheries.
Note that these 13 reefs are in addition to those 9 reefs in the Strait of Georgia and (two aggregations in) Howe Sound that were brought under DFO protection in 2015 with fisheries closures from all bottom contact fishing activities including aboriginal fisheries for Food, Social and Ceremonial purposes.