MLSS Statement of Achievements

MLSS Howe Sound Statement of Achievements

Dec 7, 2020

Recent narratives in the media whether directly, by omission or association, have failed to portray the significant role that MLSS has played in leading Citizen Science efforts to protect the glass sponge reefs in Howe Sound.

Over the past several decades, MLSS discovered, mapped and protected the majority of sponge reefs in Howe Sound. We accomplished this through government collaboration, public outreach, and the recruitment and coordination of in-kind and cash community contributions. Our volunteers are scientists, professional divers, and motivated members of the community.

As the campaign lead in glass sponge reef protection in Howe Sound, MLSS provided high resolution charts, video and still-image documentation and advice to local, provincial and federal regulators and collaborated with other community groups that ultimately resulted in the protection of eight Marine Refuge Conservation Areas in Howe Sound in 2019.

Leading this charge was the MLSS President, Glen Dennison, who has volunteered countless hours and effort towards the identification of locations and formations of these important ecosystems; but we are not yet done. New glass sponge reef discoveries and important areas for rockfish conservation require more work and we remain active in achieving further protection for marine life in Howe Sound.

Highlights (chronological)

1984 to present: Diving documentation of rockfish and lingcod nest counts followed by glass sponge recognition; mapping of seafloor leading to discovery of 12 glass sponge reefs.

1993: MPA status (unresolved) for Whytecliff Marine Park (collaborative effort).

1998: Installed mooring buoys with UCBC (Underwater Council of British Columbia) that initiated establishment of Rockfish Conservation Areas.

2014-present: Conducted numerous public nature dives with specimen interpretation to raise awareness of marine life in coastal waters, especially glass sponge reefs.

2014: Spearheaded initiative with BC Parks to expand Halkett Bay Provincial Park to include glass sponge garden and reef off Gambier Island (collaborative effort).

2015-present: Provided numerous public presentations to raise awareness of ecological value of glass sponge reefs.

2015-2017: Dived five deep sponge reef locations as first human eyes directly on these reefs.

2016: BC Parks officially established Halkett Bay Provincial Marine Park.

2016: Installed temperature probes at various locations within Howe Sound to monitor patterns over time (collaborative effort).

2016: Initiated development of first PADI Bioherm Sponge Diver Distinctive Specialty course with Ocean Quest.

2016-2017: Recorded marine life from Stingray submersible dive on Kelvin Grove seamounts; first human eyes directly on this glass sponge reef at 245 ft (collaboration with Aquatica Submarines).

2017: McAuley (Tryon), L. 2017. Howe Sound Glass Sponge Reef Identification. Report on behalf of MLSS to DFO. 39 pp.

2017: Clayton, L. and G. Dennison. 2017. Inexpensive video drop-camera for surveying sensitive benthic habitats: applications from glass sponge (Hexactinellida) reefs in Howe Sound, British Columbia. Canadian Field-Naturalist 131(1): 46-54.

2016-2018: Initiated Larval Settlement Project using settlement plates on artificial trees within Halkett sponge reef (collaboration with DFO scientists).

2018: Installed of subsurface mooring buoy on Halkett pinnacle with UCBC.

2019: DFO officially established eight Marine Refuge Conservation Areas to protect glass sponge reefs in Howe Sound, thanks in large part to ground work done by MLSS.

2020: Archer, S.K., G. Dennison, L. Tryon, S. Byers and A. Dunham. 2020. Invertebrate settlement and diversity on a glass sponge reef. Canadian Field-Naturalist 134(1): 1-15.  DOI:




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