Conserving Canada’s Diverse Marine Life

Seamounts are filled with a diversity of ocean life including
anemones, feather stars, octopuses, lobsters and rockfishes.
Credit: Ocean Exploration Trust, Northeast Pacific Seamount
Expedition Partners

By Stephen Leahy
UXBRIDGE, Canada, Dec 5 2018 (IPS)

Despite the deep, cold waters, newly discovered undersea
mountains off Canada’s west coast are home to a rich diversity of
life.

“When we reached a seamount (undersea mountain), it was often
like we were entering a forest, only of red tree corals and
vase-shaped glass sponges,” said Robert Rangeley, Science
Director, Oceana Canada
“These areas were filled with a diversity of other animals
including anemones, feather stars, octopuses, lobsters and
rockfishes,” said Rangely who led the expedition in July.

Oceana, a marine conservation organisation, along with the Haida
Nation, an indigenous people, the Federal government department of
Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and Ocean Networks Canada were
partners in the first in-depth investigation of the recently
designated
Offshore Pacific Area of Interest
. This is a 140,000 square
kilometre region 100 to 200 kilometres west of Vancouver Island in
the province of British Columbia.

This waters in this region are also home to the vast majority of
Canada’s known hydrothermal vents, deep-sea hot springs at the
bottom of the sea floor.  As seawater meets the Earth’s molten
magma it gets superheated and rises up through holes or vents in
the sea floor carrying with it minerals leached from the crustal
rock below forming bizarre chimney-like structures. These vents are
home to strange forms of life that thrive in a toxic chemical soup
where temperatures can reach 350 degrees C.

The expedition spent 16 days on the water and discovered six new
seamounts with ancient and fragile coral forests and potentially
new species. Even scientists who have visited seamounts on other
parts of the world were blown away by the abundance and diversity
of life found Rangely told IPS.

The expedition team also found lost fishing gear on some of the
seamounts. This gear entangles marine life and destroys fragile and
slow growing corals and sponges. Seamounts are often targeted by
fishing vessels because they attract an abundance of fish. The
damage wasn’t from bottom-trawling vessels that scrape along the
seafloor but from long-line fishing. The Cobb seamount just outside
of Canada’s Exclusive
Economic Zone
(EEZ) has been destroyed by fishing he said.

Canada is working to create a new marine protected area (MPA)
for most of the 140,000 sq km Offshore Pacific Area of
Interest. Credit: Ocean Exploration Trust, Northeast Pacific
Seamount Expedition Partners

Seamounts need protection to provide refuge for marine life and
Oceana wants to see all of Canada’s seamounts closed to bottom
contact fishing Rangely said. Fishing can still continue away from
seamounts, and will benefit from the closures. When seamounts are
protected from fishing or resource extraction, it increases the
quantities of fish outside the area in what’s known as a ‘spillover
effect’
.

Canada is working to create a new marine protected area (MPA)
for most of the 140,000 sq km Offshore Pacific Area of Interest.
Half the region would be closed to fishing to protect seamounts and
hydrothermal vents. The new MPA may be officially in place in 2020
to help Canada get close to its United Nations Convention of
Biodiversity commitment
of protecting 10 percent of its marine
and coastal areas by 2020. Canada had protected less than one
percent by 2017. However, the current government is rapidly ramping
up the number of protected areas but conservationists say these
protections are too weak and allow fishing or resource
extraction.

For example a near 50,000 square kilometre marine refuge east of
Newfoundland on Canada’s Atlantic coast is off limits to fishing
was just opened to
allow drilling for oil and ga
s.

Canada is also scrambling to manage its fish stocks that have
seen years of steady decline. Just a third of the nearly 200 stocks
are considered healthy, according to a 2018 audit report by Oceana. Canada is
a major fish and seafood exporter, with exports reaching
C$6.9 billion in 2017
.

After a decade of deep cutbacks by a previous government,
Canada’s fisheries department under the Trudeau government is
struggling to catch up. Most of the 26 critically endangered stocks
do not have rebuilding plans in place the Oceana report found.

Last week the Canadian government announced $107.4 million over
five years for rebuilding and assessments of fish stocks across
Canada.

In a statement Oceana Canada’s Executive Director, Josh
Laughren called this a critical investment addressing the urgent
challenge of rebuilding depleted fisheries and rebuilding
abundance.

  • The first global Sustainable Blue Economy Conference took
    place in Nairobi, Kenya from Nov. 26 to 28 and was co-hosted with
    Canada and Japan. Participants from 150 countries around the world
    gathered to learn how to build a blue economy.

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Conserving Canada’s Diverse Marine Life
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Source: FS – All – Ecology – News
Conserving Canada’s Diverse Marine Life