March 7, 2019 1:09 am
Updated: March 7, 2019 4:04 pm

New fisheries closures announced near Vancouver to protect glass sponge reefs

An underwater view of the fragile glass sponge reefs in British Columbia's Howe Sound.

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Fisheries Minister Jonathan Wilkinson announced on Wednesday the creation of eight marine refuges in the waters northwest of Vancouver, saying they will help protect newly discovered glass sponge reefs.

As a result of the announcement, fisheries closures will take effect in Howe Sound ahead of the spring season and apply to all commercial, recreational and Indigenous bottom contact fishing activities.

WATCH: (Feb 2, 2017) First-ever look at rare glass sponge beds in Lions Bay

READ MORE: Vancouver Aquarium funded to study rare glass sponge reefs in Howe Sound

Fisheries and Oceans Canada says prawn and crab traps, shrimp and groundfish trawls, groundfish hook and line, and the use of downrigger gear in recreational salmon trolling are now prohibited within the protected areas.

The department says in a statement that the fragile glass sponge reefs are some of the most biologically productive reefs and provide habitat to more than 84 species including prawns and rockfish.

READ MORE: B.C. rare glass reefs need more protection: group

It says they filter bacteria and process carbon and nitrogen through the equivalent of 6,800 Olympic swimming pools of water every day.

MORE GLOBAL NEWS COVERAGE OF GLASS SPONGE: 

The David Suzuki Foundation described Wednesday’s announcement as significant, saying Howe Sound has suffered from decades of human activity that has degraded its ecological value.

It says the fisheries closure, which includes a 150-metre buffer zone, will give scientists an opportunity to more fully study the scale, configuration and function of the reefs, which were once thought to be extinct.

© 2019 The Canadian Press

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