Bernard Peter Hanby – In Memoriam

by Sheila Byers, Andy Lamb , Glen Dennison and Adam Taylor

It is with great sadness that the MLSS Board announces the passing of Bernard Hanby on November 25, 2023
(Link to Obituary).

Bernie (a term of endearment), along with Andy Lamb, Richard Paisley and several concerned professional citizens, formed the Pacific Marine Life Sanctuaries Society registered as a charitable organization in 1990. It was renamed the Marine Life Sanctuaries Society (MLSS) in 1993. Protection of marine life, especially rockfishes, within marine sanctuaries was the primary goal. The formation of the society was triggered by years of diving along BC’s coast during which time a significant decline in previously abundant populations of inshore rockfish species was observed. Coincidentally, a major increase in the targeting of live rockfish species by commercial interests and increased sport-fishing pressure was also occurring. Supported by the Underwater Council of British Columbia (UCBC) and members of Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS), MLSS’ first major conservation success, and first Marine Protected Area (MPA) in Canada, was established at Whytecliff Park in 1993. The primary purpose of gaining MPA status was to protect the long-lived rockfishes that were in rapid decline from overharvesting.

Bernie Hanby was a charismatic, knowledgeable, fun-loving, quick-witted and energetic man. He befriended many people who, like himself, enjoyed fishing, SCUBA-diving, underwater photography, and those who strived for better conservation efforts to protect fish and their habitats in the ocean. Andy and Bernie used their diving experience and keen interest in marine life to raise awareness and to educate the public about the importance and diversity of marine life that generally is only observed by divers and snorkellers. Years of effort resulted in the 2005 publication of a ‘photographic encyclopedia’,  Marine Life of the Pacific Northwest. Some 1,700 photographs depicting 1,400 species were included in the book, the majority taken by Bernie. After many printings, the popular book continues to expand with the addition of new species’ entries and can be accessed through the “KnowBC” webpage (requires a subscription, link: https://www.knowbc.com/books/Marine-Life-of-the-Pacific-Northwest).

To celebrate his 80th birthday (2014), Andy (surface support), Neil McDaniel, Doug DeProy and Ian Hass escorted Bernie on his last dive in Sechelt Inlet. Even at this age, Bernie’s passion persisted as he took his underwater camera just to ensure that he didn’t miss a photograph opportunity!!


photo courtesy of Neil McDaniel

From fisherman to informed activist, Bernie was a driving force on the boards of MLSS, Vancouver Aquarium, Pacific Salmon Foundation and many other organizations. He was very involved at the Vancouver Aquarium where he served on the Conservation and Education Committee for years. He provided the Aquarium access to his many excellent marine life photographs; a selection of these slides now resides at the Aquarium.

Apart from years of maintaining records of transactions and events undertaken by MLSS during his tenure as President, Bernie had an excellent memory that served him and MLSS as well. Although tactful and polite, Bernie made ‘no bones’ about challenging and expressing his concerns about man’s complacency, slow action and progress, lack of care and protection for marine life. Even though the leadership of MLSS changed over the years, Bernie and Andy continued to support MLSS as Directors-at-Large.

After an extensive period of mapping the seabed in Howe Sound, MLSS discovered the unique and ancient glass sponge reefs in 1996. Rockfishes, the dominant species on these reefs, could only be protected if the reefs themselves with all the marine life living therein, were protected. Over the next two decades, MLSS and UCBC collaborated to expand the scope of research work to provide evidence of the many ecological services that the glass sponge reef ecosystems provide to other marine life, especially the rockfishes. In 2019 and 2022, the MLSS team achieved Marine Refuge Conservation Area designation (fisheries closures) for 13 glass sponge reefs in Howe Sound. Such closures are the first step towards mitigating and protecting the sponge reef ecosystems from damage caused by bottom-contact fishing gear. Protection for these important ecosystems has taken years, but all involved, especially Bernie and Andy, were thrilled with the accomplishments.

On 23 July 2023 MLSS organized a small but important event to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Whytecliff Park MPA. [ https://mlssbc.com/about-us/marine-life-sanctuaries ]. The small but timely event and conversation efforts that instigated the founding of MLSS was recorded for posterity.

MLSS past members: Andy Lamb, Bernie Hanby, Richard Paisley, Doug Deproy. July 23, 2023. Photo by Sheila Byers.

Bernie’s passion and dedication to protect BC marine life, especially rockfishes and salmonids, has been substantial. Bernie was ‘no small fish’ in the BC world of marine life conservation and his pursuit of long-term sustainability of these species. The MLSS board is grateful for all that Bernie has done in this regard.

Read other articles on glass sponge reefs and rockfishes at https://mlssbc.com/programs/sponge-research/