Meet Mr. Stinky, a glass sponge a finger goblet sponge, to be exact. He is becoming quite the celebrity.
Three young women from the B.C. chapter of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) came to Sechelt recently to introduce us to Mr. Stinky and to update us on what has been happening to protect the glass sponge reefs discovered off the Coast of Sechelt.
Originally from the southern Strait of Georgia, Mr. Stinky was brought up from the sea floor by scientists from Natural Resources Canada on a research trip. He joined up with the folks at CPAWS-BC for a tour to communities on the coast of B.C.
Mr. Stinky was not too stinky and was surprisingly light, not like corals you find in the Caribbean. That is because glass sponge reefs are built up as a lattice-like structure composed entirely of silica, making them extremely light but also delicate and brittle. Yet they can form reefs up to 25 metres high thats the same height as an eight-storey building. The original sponges attached themselves to the rocky substrate with new sponges building up the reef by growing on top of the deceased, similar to the formation of a coral reef.
Glass sponge reefs covering 1,000 square kilometres of sea floor were first discovered in B.C.s Hecate Strait in the late 1980s. More than a decade later, more glass sponge reefs were discovered, this time on the sea floor in parts of the Strait of Georgia just off the Sunshine Coast, West Vancouver and the southern Gulf Islands.
Thought to have been extinct for millions of years, the reefs are thousands of years old and B.C.s coast is home to the only living glass sponge reefs of this size anywhere on Earth.
The North McCall Bank glass sponge reefs are just off the shore of Sechelt at depths ranging from 90 to 210 metres can reach height of up to six metres and have a footprint of about 180 hectares spread over an area of some four square km.
Glass sponge reefs provide a crucial refuge for a variety of marine species, including juvenile rockfish, and form the basis of an ecosystem that extends well beyond the reefs themselves. Refuges such as these are especially important in regions of high human use, such as the Strait of Georgia. The health of the reefs is an indicator of the health of our oceans, and is ultimately connected to our quality of life.
These fragile reefs are easily damaged and while the northern reefs in the Hecate Strait have some protection, the reefs in the Strait of Georgia remain threatened. CPAWS-BC and the Sunshine Coast Conservation Association (SCCA) are working together to help protect this natural wonder of the world.
The SCCAs goal is to secure initial protection for the glass sponge reefs through voluntary fishing closures, and then ultimately through the creation of Marine Protected Area status.
If you want to sign the petition to protect the reefs, check out www.thescca.ca.