Canada's Ocean, Freshwater & US

Hecate Strait and Queen Charlotte Sound Glass Sponge Reefs Marine Protected Areas
Laura Sample
Location: Offshore Pacific Marine
Approximate Area: 240,993 hectares
Date of Designation: 2017
Conservation Objectives

To conserve the biological diversity and structural habitat of glass sponge reefs.


It is prohibited to carry out activities that disturb, damage, destroy or remove living marine organisms, or any part of their habitats, from these areas.

Why (environmental context for protection)

The Hecate Strait is a marine protected area that consists of four reefs off the coast of British Columbia in the Douglas Channel. These reefs, which cover a total area of 1,000 kilometres, are the habitat of an extremely rare species of sponge called the glass sponge, so called because of their fragile skeletons made of delicate silica that splinter easily on impact. These rare sponges were considered to be long extinct before the 9,000-year-old reefs of the Hecate Strait were discovered in 1987. The sponges themselves are important to ocean ecosystems as they play a part in marine carbon and nitrogen processing and their structure provides refuge for a variety of aquatic species. Because of their fragile nature, slow growth time and the fact that the sponges require tens to hundreds of years to recover from damage, protection is necessary in order to preserve these rare prehistoric sponges.