During the Rivers to Oceans Week in Canada, the Federal government made two announcements concerning sensitive ocean areas of BC.

Gwaii Haanas

Gwaii Haanas Provincial Park extended

The protected area of the Gwaii Haanas Provincial Park on Haida Gwaii will be extended about 10 kilometres offshore. The Gwaii Haanas National Marine Reserve and Haida Heritage Site is a collaboration between the Canadian government and the Haida Nation. It is the first national marine conservation site established under the National Marine Conservation Areas Act. The area is home to Stellar sea lions, blue whales, birds and corals.

Glass Sponge Marine Protected Areas

Finger Goblet SpongeThe second area is the Hectate Strait/Queen Charlotte Sound glass sponge reefs. The reefs are being considered for Marine Protected Areas (MOA). They are being designated as Areas Of Interest (AOI) and will undergo evaluation and public consultation before being made a MOA.. The reefs of Hexactinellid (glass) sponges were discovered by Geological Survey of Canada in 1988. Four sponge reefs that cover an area of 1,000 square-kilometres are thought to be 9,000 years old. These reefs can reach a height of nine stories tall. There are no other known reefs of this size in the world.

According to the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS), scientists recently discovered smaller sponge reefs off B.C.'s Sunshine Coast and in the Strait of Georgia, including one located off Galiano Island. The organization hopes that these smaller reefs will also become protected.

"The discovery of four major glass sponge reefs in 1987 sparked interest in these delicate and vulnerable marine animals. Thought to be extinct worldwide, the four reefs in Hecate Strait were determined to be over 9000 years old. The reefs are very large, covering a total area of about 1000 km2. They are located at depths of 140 to 240 m below the surface, with the largest being 35km long, 15km wide and 25m tall. Individual sponges on the reef may live for more than 200 years."

See more about the glass sponge reefs: BCs Reefs Among Science's Great Finds.

 Fisheries and Oceans Canada has committed to establishing six new MPAs by 2012. The order-in-council awaits approval before the parliamentary session adjourns for the summer.