Update: Straight of Georgia and Howe Sound Glass Sponge Reef Conservation Initiative

From: Finn, Deirdre
Sent: January 27, 2020 5:13:02 PM  Cc: Mar, Amy

Subject: Update: Strait of Georgia and Howe Sound Glass Sponge Reef Conservation Initiative

Dear Stakeholder,

The purpose of this email is to provide an update on recent activities of the Strait of Georgia and Howe Sound Glass Sponge Reef Conservation Initiative (the Initiative) and to share new educational materials created to help inform the public about these glass sponge reefs.

As you know, eight marine refuges totalling 3.5 km² were recently established in Howe Sound to protect nine newly discovered glass sponge reefs. These new fishing closures are part of a second phase of the Initiative, which implements measures to protect and conserve glass sponge reefs on British Columbia’s south coast. Effective April 1, 2019, all commercial, recreational, and First Nations food, social and ceremonial (FSC) bottom-contact fishing for prawn, shrimp, crab and groundfish, as well as the use of downrigger gear in recreational salmon troll were prohibited within portions of Subareas 28-2 and 28-4 to protect glass sponge reefs from long-term damaged caused by fishing gear. A total of 17 areas in the Strait of Georgia and Howe Sound are now closed by Variation Order under the Fisheries Act.

Science Survey

In May 2019, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), along with First Nations and local stakeholder observers, obtained data on the remaining nine unprotected sponge sites (Attachment 1) in Howe Sound to assess their ecological significance. Seven of the nine areas were surveyed by Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) (red in Attachment 1). Observational data from citizen scientists will be used for the other two nearshore areas to assess their ecological significance (black in Attachment 1). A report summarizing these findings is expected by DFO Science in Spring 2020. Following DFO Science advice, additional management measures may be considered as well as engagement with Indigenous groups and stakeholders on these sponge sites if found to be ecologically significant.

New Research – Hecate Strait/Queen Charlotte Sound Glass Sponge Reefs

A recently published paper in the journal Marine Ecology Progress Series assessed the impact of suspended sediment created from trawl gear on the pumping rate of three species of glass sponges in the Hecate Strait/Queen Charlotte Sound Glass Sponge Reefs Marine Protected Area. The research suggests that a larger adaptive management zone (or “buffer zone”) prohibiting bottom trawl fishing activities in some instances would better protect these glass sponge reefs from the impacts of sedimentation. While this new research was completed in a different geographical area and considers a gear type that is not typically deployed near the Howe Sound and Strait of Georgia marine refuges, discussions with DFO Science are currently underway to better understand the implications of these new findings to this initiative.

Education & Awareness

DFO is working jointly with Transport Canada to educate the public to avoid fishing and anchoring in these areas. A co-developed educational poster (Attachment 2) that summarizes current fishing restrictions and voluntary avoidance of anchoring for all 17 marine refuges is being distributed to local marinas, bait shops, DFO offices and other distribution locations. A printable version is available on the Initiative’s webpage (Canada.ca/glass-sponge-closures) and a limited number of printed posters are available upon request. Your assistance with distribution of this poster within your communities would be greatly appreciated. Additionally, in response to stakeholder requests, 17 new marine charts were
developed that clearly map the new closure areas and coordinates. These are also available on the Initiative’s webpage.


To ensure these new closures in Howe Sound are enforced, Conservation and Protection (C&P) have increased water and land-based patrols from Squamish and Steveston area offices, and Aerial Surveillance Program (ASP) monitoring is ongoing.
Any suspected fishing violations should be reported immediately to DFO’s 24-hour Observe, Record, Report (ORR) hotline: 1-800-465-4336, or by email to DFO.ORR-ONS.MPO@dfo-mpo.gc.ca.
If you have any questions or would like further information on the Strait of Georgia and Howe Sound Glass Sponge Reef Conservation Initiative, please visit Canada.ca/glass-sponge-closures or contact Deirdre Finn at Deirdre.Finn@dfo-mpo.gc.ca.


Deirdre Finn

1. Remaining areas in Howe Sound surveyed by DFO in May 2019
2. Educational poster: No Fishing in Glass Sponge Reef Marine Refuges.


Deirdre Finn
Fisheries Management Officer, Sustainable Fisheries Framework
Fisheries and Oceans / Government of Canada
Deirdre.Finn@dfo-mpo.gc.ca / Tel: 604-666-2606
Agente de gestion des Pêches, Cadre pour la pêche durable
Pêches et Océans Canada/ Gouvernement du Canada Deirdre.Finn@dfo-mpo.gc.ca / Tel: 604-666-2606


2019 DFO GlassSponge Reef Poster NO FISHING Zone Map

Photo credit for rockfish and healthy glass sponge reef: Adam Taylor/MLSSBC


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