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Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on 
Fisheries and Oceans

Issue 4 - Evidence, November 21, 2006


OTTAWA, Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The Standing Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans met this day at 7:50 p.m. to examine and report on issues relating to the federal government's new and evolving policy framework for managing Canada's fisheries and oceans.

Senator Janis G. Johnson (Deputy Chairman) in the chair.

[Traduction]

The Deputy Chairman: Honourable senators, we meet this evening to continue our study of the emerging policy framework for managing Canada's fisheries and oceans.

I would like to welcome Ms. Sabine Jessen, Conservation Director of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society British Columbia Chapter; and Dr. Manfred Krautter from the Institute for Geology and Paleontology of the University of Stuttgart, who works on The Sponge Reef Project.

We look forward to your opening remarks, after which we will go into a period of questions and discussion.

Please proceed.

Sabine Jessen, Conservation Director, Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society British Columbia Chapter: Good evening, honourable senators. We appreciate the opportunity to present to you this evening as part of your deliberations on the policy framework for managing Canada's fisheries and oceans. You may know that today is World Fisheries Day, so it seems like an appropriate day to be here as well.

I have been at the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, CPAWS, since 1993, directing our marine conservation work. A few months ago I took on the role of the national manager of our oceans and great freshwater lakes.

Between 2000 and 2005, I also served as a member of the Ministers' Advisory Council on Oceans. I am pleased that Dr. Manfred Krautter, from the University of Stuttgart, could join us. We have recently completed a tour of 10 coastal communities on the B.C. coast to raise awareness about the glass sponge reefs that we will talk about tonight, and also to raise awareness around the issue of cold water corals.

In addition to the need to protect the globally unique sponge reefs and things like the corals on our coast, we also want to address the need for the Government of Canada to make a serious commitment to a more comprehensive approach to oceans management in Canada.

I want to tell you a bit about the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society. Since we were established in 1963, we have been Canada's grassroots voice for wilderness. We have 13 chapters across the country through which we deliver our conservation work on the ground and in the water. We have a national office here in Ottawa. We have 20,000 members, 50 staff and hundreds of volunteers who help us deliver this work.

We tend to approach our work in as collaborative a way as we can and collaborate across the spectrum of government, industry and other stakeholders. We try to approach our work using the best science and information that we can get our hands on.

I am sure you have seen the series of scientific studies that have been published over the last few years that have documented the serious decline in ocean ecosystems around the world. The most recent study forecasts the end of commercial fishing by 2048 unless significant changes are made in our management of oceans.

These studies clearly demonstrate the serious challenges that face our ocean ecosystems and highlight that it is time to take urgent action and that we need to do that now.

We still have the opportunity to avert what has been suggested could be a disaster in the oceans. Scientists in the recent article in Science Magazine, only a week or so ago, noted that:

By restoring marine biodiversity through sustainable fisheries management, pollution control, maintenance of essential habitats, and the creation of marine reserves, we can invest in the productivity and reliability of the goods and services that the ocean provides to humanity.

We also know from recent opinion polls that Canadians are becoming increasingly concerned about the condition of our environment, including our oceans. We have heard this directly from citizens over the past month as we toured coastal communities in British Columbia.

Where are we at here in Canada? As you know, Canada has the longest coastline in the world, along three oceans: the Pacific, the Arctic and the Atlantic. The importance of these oceans to the Canadian economy is often undervalued but it is increasingly important to Canada's economic future. Our relationship to the oceans is changing as well. Our historic dependence on resource extraction is evolving to more of an emphasis on other uses, whether it is recreation, ecotourism, shipping, navigation, and those kinds of different uses.

During the negotiations on the International Law of the Sea, Canada was seen as one of the guiding lights on the oceans front and in the forefront of thinking on oceans management. This reputation continued with the passage of Canada's Oceans Act in 1996, when we were the first country in the world with legislation specifically dedicated to the management of oceans.

However, I would argue that since then we have lost our leadership position in the world on oceans. We have fallen behind and we have been overtaken by other countries; whether it is Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, or South Africa. Last year's report by the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development highlighted serious problems with the implementation of Canada's Oceans Act and I quote from her report:

Canada aspires to be a world leader in modern approaches to oceans management. The 1996 Oceans Act and the 2002 Canada's Oceans Strategy established heightened expectations for action. Eight years after the passage of the act, only modest progress has been made, and expectations have not been met.

It took Canada almost 10 years to fund implementation of that new legislation. It was not until 2005 that the Government of Canada made specific budgetary allocations to implement the act through the Oceans Action Plan.

Under that plan, the governmental allocated $28 million over two years for a number of initiatives across the country. This plan led to the establishment of five large-scale ocean management planning processes, commitments to marine protected areas on each of Canada's coasts, as well as a number of other initiatives including the Placentia Bay demonstration platform for oceans technology development.

Integrated oceans management is essentially a planning approach to resolving conflicts among ocean users. It employs a long-term comprehensive approach to ocean uses, and it recognizes increasing competition for limited ocean space. We need only to look at areas like where I am from, around the Georgia Strait, or the east coast on the St. Lawrence Seaway, to see that use and development is growing exponentially; that this increases the potential risk of marine disasters, such as ship collisions, and it leads to high pollution levels, to the extent that in both those areas, the orca and the beluga whales are now listed as endangered. When they die they must be disposed of as toxic waste.

The two-year Oceans Action Plan comes to an end in March 2007. As it does so, we think it is time to take stock of progress made to date. In our view, while we can point to some successes under the plan, when it comes to the health of the oceans we are not keeping pace internationally. We will provide you with a couple of examples from the B.C. coast that could be international good news stories for Canada. We could use a couple of those right now.

We think that these things could be done relatively quickly, and they could demonstrate Canada's commitment to the conservation of ocean ecosystems.

I will now ask Dr. Krautter to describe his work on the glass sponge reefs and their significance to Canada.

Manfred Krautter, Institute for Geology and Paleontology, University of Stuttgart, The Sponge Reef Project: It is a privilege to be here and to tell you about the globally unique glass sponge reefs found only in British Columbia. I have been researching fossilized sponge reefs over the last 20 years in Europe. I completed my Ph.D. in 1990, which focused on the Jurassic glass sponge reefs in southern Germany. Since then, I have worked all over Europe on other fossilized sponge reefs, and I have supervised seven Ph.D.s and 30 master's theses, mostly dealing with fossil reefs.

Since 1999, I have been involved in a German-Canadian joint venture with scientists from the Geological Survey of Canada focused on the living glass sponge reefs on B.C.'s continental shelf. Since this joint work began, I have secured $370,000 Canadian from the German research foundation in financial support for this research.

I want to tell you a bit about the biology of sponges. Sponges are animals that filter water through their porous body surface to extract food particles and dissolve substances. They are not mobile, but remain in one place throughout their adult lives, much like a plant. Glass sponges make their skeletons totally out of silica. The glass sponge reefs consist of seven hexactinellid species, three of which are the main reef builders. Please see Figures 1, 2 and 3.

Little is known about sponge reef growth rates and reproduction, but the information available suggests that sponge reefs grow slowly and that the animals are long-lived species that are easily damaged. To understand the significance of the glass sponge reefs found on the B.C. coast, it is important to understand the geological history of the reefs.

Glass sponges were the first multicellular animals to appear on earth over 570 million years ago. The original sponge reefs first appeared on earth over 220 million years ago and reached their peak 150 million years ago when they existed in a huge band over 7,000 kilometres long and over 100 metres high. See Figures 4, 5 and 6.

Because we scientists were not able to find any fossil sponge reefs older than 40 million years, it was believed that these sponge reefs had died out like the dinosaurs before them.

In 1988, while mapping the sea floor in Hecate Strait on the B.C. coast, scientists from the Geological Survey of Canada discovered unusual mounds on the sea floor that were later identified as living sponge reefs. They published a paper in 1991 describing their findings.

When I first came across this paper, I could not believe what I was reading as all previous scientific evidence pointed to the extinction of the sponge reefs during the Jurassic era. Extending over 1,000 square kilometres on the seabed of B.C.'s northern inside waters of Hecate Strait and reaching heights of 25 metres, which is the height of an eight-storey building, the globally unique hexactinellid sponge reefs, or glass sponge reefs, have been growing on the sea floor here for over 9,000 years. Recent bathymetry research has led to the identification of smaller sponge reefs in the southern Strait of Georgia and the Sunshine Coast. The sponge reefs extend about one square kilometre and are 15 metres high.

The three-dimensional structure of sponge reefs provides complex habitat on the otherwise flat sea bed. They harbour food and shelter for many species of fish and other animals, creating areas of rich biological diversity and contributing to the sustainability of local fisheries, including rockfish and lingcod. Recent research has shown that the reefs are vital habitat for juvenile rockfish — see Figure 7 — with 10 times more rockfish in the reefs than in adjacent areas.

Since 2002, the federal government has closed the reefs to trawling. In the spring of 2006, the trawl closures were altered and expanded after surveys with newer technology showed that the reefs were not fully encompassed by the first closures. These closures must be renewed yearly and do not provide permanent, legislated protection.

An important question may be why the glass sponges occur only in British Columbia. We have identified a number of critical factors accounting for the location of living glass sponge reefs only on the B.C. coast and nowhere else in the world. These conditions also highlight the land/sea connections that are critical to the ongoing life of glass sponge reefs on our coast.

Adjacent coastal mountains are a key source of the silica — glass — that the sponge reefs need to build their skeletons. We recently calculated that the sponge reefs need 57,000 tonnes of silica per year, the equivalent of 1,000 railway cars, to grow only one centimetre.

The rivers that erode the coastal mountains bring sediment containing silica into the fjords found along the B.C. coast. The submerged sills at the mouth of the coastal fjords ensure that the coarse sediments are deposited in the fjords, preventing the sponge reefs from being smothered by the coarse sediments and allowing only the fine clay sediments containing the silica to flow into the ocean.

The sponge reef complexes are found at the terminus of major troughs on the continental shelf that funnel nutrients from the deep ocean to the sponge reefs during up-welling events. During ocean down-welling, the silica which is in the surface waters from rivers is pushed down to the sponge reefs.

Sponge reefs can grow only on hard substrate on the sea floor. They began their growth over 9,000 years ago on the sea floor in furrows created by glaciers that scraped the seafloor of sediment.

In conclusion I want to emphasize the importance of the Hecate Strait sponge reefs. Until they were discovered in 1988, scientists around the world thought that sponge reefs had met the same fate as the dinosaurs with which they had shared the earth. To learn that there were living sponge reefs was one of the most exciting and important scientific discoveries in the world. It was equivalent to discovering a herd of dinosaurs somewhere on land.

I cannot overemphasize the scientific importance of the Hecate Strait sponge reef. It is the only place in the world for us to begin to understand the biology and ecology of these reefs, and they provide the only known window into this part of our geological past.

Ms. Jessen: I want to tell you about cold water corals that we have recently been researching on our coast. I will then talk more broadly about the threats and about what needs to happen to protect corals and sponges on our coast. Finally, I will talk about the need for long-term oceans management.

Research on cold water corals lags behind efforts not only on Canada's East Coast and other areas of the world, but even behind the work that Dr. Krautter has described about the sponge reefs. In fact, the existing information about corals in British Columbia comes in part from scientists who were looking for other species but mainly from bycatch records from commercial fishing boats, for the most part trawlers. There has been no intentional surveying, mapping or research done specifically on corals.

Due to this lack of direct knowledge the full distribution can be projected only from existing information using computer models. We believe that if more research was done we may be able to identify where larger congregations of corals may be found.

Corals are large colonies of tiny animals that can create structures up to 10 feet tall. They live in depths of up to 5,000 metres deep and in cold northern waters. Like the sponges Dr. Krautter mentioned, they are sessile: they are not mobile but attached to the sea floor and they act like islands. They provide complex habitat on the seabed that provides shelter and feeding grounds for other marine animals.

They provide extensive habitat not only on the B.C. coast but around the world in the oceans.

They can live for hundreds or even thousands of years and they provide habitat for many other sea creatures.

CPAWS collaborated with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to identify from the fishing records where corals can be found on the B.C. coast. You have a map. We have identified 61 families of coral species and we expect that probably another 50 species are likely to occur on our coast because these species occur in the waters of Washington State and also in Alaska and more research has been done in those places on corals.

Like the sponges, corals grow and mature extremely slowly. They are brittle. This brittleness makes them fragile and vulnerable to physical damage from human activities. Sadly, the corals are being heavily damaged both in B.C. waters and around the world. The biggest threat is bottom trawling.

When it comes to the sponges, Dr. Krautter and other scientists are concerned that the sponges may not be able to recolonize once they are destroyed.

Although these sponges are the only known glass sponge reefs in the world, they have no permanent protection from human activity. The trawling closures must be renewed each year. Dr. Krautter and his partners at NRCan have estimated 50 per cent of these globally unique sponge reefs have already been destroyed.

We have identified eight key measures we think are urgently needed to protect the glass sponge reefs and cold water corals on the B.C. coast.

In terms of corals, we need to conduct research to identify where we can find high coral concentrations. DFO scientists have identified potential areas based on the bycatch data and they would like to see more directed research to determine where intact coral concentration areas remain on the coast.

We need to provide at least some interim protection for the areas that have been identified so far through trawl closures specifically for corals.

We have been working as well with Fisheries and Oceans Canada to develop coral and a sponge conservation strategy for the Pacific Coast. Work such as this is being done on the East Coast. While Dr. Krautter has been in Canada, we recently convened a meeting with fishermen and various federal agencies as well as the provincial government and non-governmental organizations to develop a strategy in a collaborative way that would look at how to manage corals and the sponge reefs on a coast-wide basis. We believe that DFO needs to make this project a priority.

We want to see the trawl closures for the sponge reefs expanded to include any other damaging fishing gear. We brought some pieces of the corals from the Hecate Strait, as well as pieces of fossilized coral. You will see from the pieces how fragile and brittle these creatures are. Anything that comes in contact with them has the clear potential to destroy them.

In 2002, DFO scientists recommended that buffer zones be placed around the sponge reefs. In addition to the trawl closures, which are close to the boundaries of the sponge reefs, in 2002 DFO scientists recommended buffer zones be placed around the sponge reefs to protect them from accidental incursion by trawlers and to ensure that the reefs cannot be affected by sedimentation from adjacent trawling or other activities. Sponges are sensitive to sedimentation and could be smothered. We need to ensure they do not start dying around the edges. We need to give them more room to breathe than the current trawl closures give.

Currently, the Strait of Georgia sponge reefs, which were more recently discovered, have absolutely no protection. We want to see some interim measures and then some longer-term measures put in place to protect them.

Finally, we believe that marine protected area status under the Oceans Act, which is a provision that the minister can invoke under the Oceans Act, should be accorded to all the sponge reefs on the coast, given their globally unique nature and their fragility. We think that the only way to provide the long-term protection that they deserve is through marine protected area status. If we finally gave them that kind of long-term protection, we could also nominate them for world heritage designation. We did nominate them following Dr. Krautter's last visit to Canada in 2003 and the list went forward in 2004. Unfortunately, the committee advising the Minister of Canadian Heritage was not able to put the sponge reefs on the list because the reefs do not have long-term protection in Canada. That is one of the criteria they have to meet. If we could finally give them that long-term protection, we could also give them that international recognition and they could become world heritage sites on the UNESCO world heritage list.

As a final measure, we would like to work toward a comprehensive network of marine protected areas on our coast for both the corals and the sponge reefs. Canada has made that commitment in a number of fora. We have committed to do that by 2012 and we want to see some of that work move ahead on a faster basis.

We think that by implementing these measures, Canada could raise its standing among other nations with regard to how seriously we take our responsibilities to protect and conserve our ocean environments.

I will conclude my remarks by talking about the need for Canada to adopt a longer-term and more comprehensive approach to ocean management. As I mentioned earlier, the Oceans Action Plan ends in 2007. We believe it is absolutely critical that the Government of Canada become serious about its ocean management responsibilities and make a long-term sustained and significant investment in a future oceans agenda.

Under the Oceans Action Plan, with the small investment of $28.4 million over two years, a number of initiatives were launched that have the buy-in of local communities, other levels of government and NGOs. Now that these projects are developed, there has been a lot of expectation that they will continue, and will lead to some long-term integrated management plans for different regions on our coast.

We have also identified other initiatives that could be launched. For example, on the west coast of Vancouver Island, I serve on the West Coast Vancouver Island Aquatic Management Board, which is a joint federal-provincial- Nuu-chah-nulth board that is looking at management of oceans on the west coast of Vancouver Island.

We have also launched an international Canada-U.S. stewardship project called the Big Eddy Initiative that has generated some interesting commitments on the Canada and U.S. side.

For Canada to meet its international commitments on marine protected areas and to have a national network in place by 2012, we must move a lot faster than we have been moving. We have only a handful of sites right now. It will be difficult to meet this commitment at the current pace. The commissioner for the environment came to the same conclusion in her recent report.

Many communities and organizations are prepared to work with the government to achieve this commitment and we know it can be done. We only need to compare our progress with Australia's to know that if we have the kind of commitment that they do, we can get it done.

For example, from 1996, when we passed the Oceans Act, until 2005, the total area under protection has increased only from .43 per cent to .51 per cent of the oceans. In contrast, during the same period Australia has increased the amount of their oceans under protection from 4.5 to 7.5 per cent. Countries in the world are doing this. If Canada is to deliver on its ocean objectives and conservation, sovereignty, sustainable development and the economy, we need a more serious investment in the next budget.

As another point of comparison with Australia, while Canada committed $14 million per year under the Oceans Action Plan, Australia has committed $80 million in new resources annually for oceans management activities. I am a member of the Green Budget Coalition. In our current recommendations, we have suggested that an investment of $600 million over five years is more realistic if Canada is to move from words to action on oceans management.

Finally, we believe that in implementing an expanded oceans agenda, the Government of Canada needs to have external independent advice with a range of expertise in Canada's oceans. The previous advisory council to the minister was not renewed leading up to the Oceans Action Plan. The commissioner for the environment, in her 2005 report, commented that there is no national forum now where stakeholders can have input into Canada's ocean strategy.

We believe that the health of our oceans is among the most pressing environmental and economic issue facing our country and we hope you will lend your voices and influence to ensuring that Canada will address this issue in a serious and urgent manner.

The Deputy Chairman: Thank you very much, Ms. Jessen. I know you have a video. We would like to see it, but time is getting short. We will have to suspend at the moment. I want to explain to you and our viewers that there is a vote in the Senate in a few minutes.

We will suspend so that we can vote. We will then resume as soon as we can.

The committee suspended.

The committee resumed at 9 p.m.

The Deputy Chairman: Thank you for your patience. Will we start with the video? We will then have questions from me and the other senators.

Mr. Krautter: These are sponge reefs. For an impression of the size of the sponge, you can sometimes see two red dots. These dots are 20 centimetres apart. That will give you the size of the scale here.

In this picture, I have a thin-walled sponge called farrea occa. It is only one millimetre thick and it forms clusters or reefs 30 or 40 metres in diameter and eight metres in height, or two stories high.

The current is between 25 and 50 centimetres per second, but it is not a turbulent current: it is a steady current. The sponges are a bit flexible so they can adapt to the current, but turbulence will kill them at once.

In this picture, you can see how dense these sponges are, living on the sea floor. This is the top of a reef but you cannot see the whole reef. This picture was taken from a small two-man submersible. It is hard to get an impression about the size with this little picture.

Senator Campbell: How deep is that?

Mr. Krautter: That is 189.7 metres in this case.

The Deputy Chairman: This is the ideal habitat in the world for this sponge?

Mr. Krautter: It is the only habitat.

The Deputy Chairman: What makes it is so special? Is it the rocks, the silica?

Mr. Krautter: They need different factors. They need a hard substrate — that is, rocks or boulders on the sea floor. They also need a high content of silica in the water and fiords in the coastline, which keep back the coarse sediment. They need the right nutrients because these glass sponges need particulate organic. Particulate organic is in the shallower water column. There is a change from particulate organic to dissolved organic when going down towards the sea floor. These animals live in deep water because of the nutrients they need. The combination of all these factors make the currents here on the B.C. coast unique.

The Deputy Chairman: Are there any further comments on the sponges before we go to other questions?

Senator Watt: Can you tell us how many different species are in one bundle?

Mr. Krautter: It is amazing, because only three species form the reefs, creating this kind of three dimensional framework. In the reef itself, four more sponges are associated in the reefs. They occur outside the reef as well, but they do not form reefs. They just grow in the reefs and outside the reef. Only three species form the reef itself.

The Deputy Chairman: Can I start off with a question about your comments that Canada has lost its leadership position in the world on oceans, and that we have fallen behind and largely been overtaken by other countries such as Australia, New Zealand, Mexico and South Africa.

We were in Newfoundland 10 days ago and Dr. George Rose of Memorial University asserted similarly that Canada is no longer a leader in fisheries and marine science. Dr. Rose said that while most working scientists can find funding to attend international meetings, little funding is available to do actual work.

Could you comment? To what extent does our federal government or the DFO fund scientific research on Pacific corals and reefs? I believe, Dr. Krautter, you mentioned how you obtained your research money.

Mr. Krautter: Yes: I made two applications, and I received the money from the German Research Foundation.

The Deputy Chairman: What about our government in terms of scientific research in that area: Do you know of any information on that?

Ms. Jessen: I do not know the exact amount that the Department of Natural Resources has committed to this. Mr. Krautter might know better what they have committed for the sponges. On the corals, as I mentioned in my presentation, the government has not conducted any dedicated research to determine where corals exist on the coast. The information we have is strictly from bycatch records from the trawl fishery. There is no directed coral research program on our coast.

The Deputy Chairman: Where those sponges are, is there still trawl fishing there?

Ms. Jessen: The trawl fishery is closed in those areas now, but it was underway until 2002. There was still trawling happening in the sponges area.

The Deputy Chairman: How is the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society funded?

Ms. Jessen: We have membership funding and we also have foundation funding to support our work.

Senator Cowan: Arising out of those questions from the chair, can you tell me a little more about where these sponges are located. I think one picture you showed at 190 metres under the ocean. Is that the depth where you would normally find these sponges?

Mr. Krautter: No, normally you find these sponges in depths greater than 3,000 metres in the ocean.

Senator Cowan: In terms of the mapping, charting and research that you have advocated, how is that done? In casual conversation you mentioned there are small, remotely controlled submarines and that sort of thing. Can you tell us how this charting and mapping would be done if we were able to persuade authorities to make funding available for that purpose?

Mr. Krautter: Mapping on the B.C. coast was done since the 1960s, I believe, with side scan sonar, which is a type of radar system that sends out impulses that reflect on the sea floor. The sea floor reflects in a different manner if it is a hard substrate or soft substrate. That method was the state of the art until 2002. Since then multi-beam has taken over, which is a highly developed technique but it is more or less the same as the side scan sonar but on a much higher scientific level. The sea floor can be mapped accurately with this multi-beam imagery method, and that is what NRCan is doing now.

Senator Cowan: Can that mapping be done from a surface vessel?

Mr. Krautter: Yes: A submersible is not necessary. Mapping is done with a surface vessel actually.

Senator Cowan: Have you any idea as to what kind of funding would be required to do what you have recommended, and whether the surface vessels would be available?

Mr. Krautter: That point is critical at the moment. To my knowledge Canada has no pure research vessel any more. The research vessels are within the Canadian Coast Guard. That point is critical for me because if I could raise money again for ongoing research and I was on such a vessel and there is a search and rescue action, I would be on the ship and could do nothing for days but I have to pay money for it.

To have secure ship time is an important thing. All the investigation that is done on the high seas is expensive; to do moorings, which means bringing out measurement techniques to measure the current and sedimentation rate in certain areas, costs a lot of money. That is what we need.

Senator Cowan: Do you have any idea what kind of money is required?

Mr. Krautter: For an example, we brought our two moorings stations in 2002 and every single mooring cost CAN $30,000, and I brought the money from Germany to do that.

Senator Cowan: You were not able to obtain funding from Canadian sources for this work?

Mr. Krautter: I cannot because I am not Canadian. My partners, NRCan, probably cannot also. I actually do not know. We received ship time in those days, 2002, which helped a lot, but as far as I know, at the moment, NRCan pays for ship time if they want to go out so that changed dramatically too. The whole system has changed in the last years to become, let us say in my words, inefficient for doing science.

The Deputy Chairman: As a follow-up, are any Canadian scientists doing research on sponges, this particular variety?

Mr. Krautter: With these sponges, worldwide there are five to 10 people working with them. In Canada, there is Bill Austin, who is running the Marine Ecology Station in Sidney, B.C. He is in his 70s. There is Henry Reiswig. He was working at McGill University, and now he is back in Victoria B.C. He has just celebrated his seventieth birthday. There is George Mackie, who is in his 80s, and there is Sally Leys from the University of Edmonton. She is perhaps my age, but she is not doing ecology things. She is working more on the cell structure. She is really an expert on these sponges. There is one researcher in Moscow, Constantine Durbutnik. That is it.

My partners are not working with the biology of the sponges. They are doing the marine geology part, but working with the biology of sponges. That is all, five to 10 persons, and most of them are over 70 years of age. It is a small group of scientists.

The Deputy Chairman: When you go back to Germany with your research and information, what are you working on? You continue to work on it there of course?

Mr. Krautter: I am continuing to work with fossilized sponges as well as the sponges here because we have lots of samples. We froze them; we did different kinds of preservation with the sponges so we can go on studying them, of course.

Senator Hubley: I would like you to go a little further with the coloured documents that we have in front of us. You have not talked about the corals. Do sponges and the corals occur together?

Mr. Krautter: No: Corals are never found in or around sponge reefs because corals are animals that need particulate organic nutrients and the hexactinellid sponges need the salt organic nutrients. They are separate from each other. In my opinion that is the reason why we do not find them around the sponges or in the sponge reefs.

Senator Hubley: How do you discover where these reefs are located and how you investigate them?

Mr. Krautter: The discovery was done by my NRCan colleagues. They mapped the sea floor with this method I tried to explain to you, and actually they could not interbreed the pictures they received from the sea floor. The sonar images showed funny structures on these sites, so they put a camera down and took photos of the sea floor. All the photos showed beautiful sponge reefs. That was the first discovery and they published it. They did the observations in 1988 and published the paper in 1991.

I stumbled over this publication in 1997 while working on fossilized reefs, and I was surprised. I contacted my Canadian partners to learn whether they were interested in a comparison between the Jurassic and the modern reefs. Of course, I ran through open doors. We applied for money, made applications, and in 1999 we started this research.

Senator Hubley: Figures 14 and 15 illustrate bottom trawling. We have been speaking of bottom trawling in other areas of the country. Does this figure show us what happens to the sponges?

Mr. Krautter: Figure 14 shows an intact sponge reef, and Figure 15 shows a sponge reef after it was damaged by trawling. You can see the trawl mark going from the left bottom corner to the middle on the right. That dark line is the trawl mark.

It is not exactly the same location. Figure 14 is from June 14 and Figure 15 is from June 17. However, it shows what a trawled sponge reef area looks like.

Senator Hubley: Where did you get your samples? They are interesting. What happens when pieces break off? Do they settle to the bottom or do they float?

Mr. Krautter: They are not heavy, so they float a bit. We got the samples in different manners. We picked them with a submersible. There was an arm on the submersible, so we could pick them like flowers. Most of our samples are from different grabs that we let down from the ship. We use various grab systems.

Senator Watt: Figure 9 illustrates cold water coral distribution in British Columbia. With regard to both sponges and coral, have there been any discoveries of those species in the Arctic in the tremendously cold water there?

Mr. Krautter: Are you asking about corals or sponges?

Senator Watt: Both.

Mr. Krautter: Corals are found way up in the Arctic around the Aleutian Islands, but not sponge reefs. In British Columbia is the only place in the world these sponge reefs will be found.

Senator Watt: They will be in warmer water?

Mr. Krautter: No, always in cold water. These sponges cannot live in warm water. In the tropics, 400 metres down the water is cold. However, there is no reef anywhere on earth.

Senator Watt: The corals are various colours?

Ms. Jessen: There are a number of different species of corals. They have different shapes and colours and they grow to different sizes. They are pretty much distributed throughout the world's oceans. We are only starting to understand how widely distributed they are. This area of research is fairly new around the world.

Senator Watt: Has there been research into whether they could be used for medical purposes?

Mr. Krautter: Not the cold water corals: Warm-water corals are used for teeth implantation and for bone reconstruction. That is fairly common, but to my knowledge the cold-water corals are not used for medical treatment. The hexactinellid, the glass sponges, are definitely not used for medical purposes. They were examined for bioactive compounds, but they do not have them. The largest group of sponges are used for various pharmaceutical purposes.

Senator Watt: So there is an economic side to it?

Mr. Krautter: Not for the sponges in B.C.

Senator Watt: But for coral the potential exists?

Mr. Krautter: There will be potential, yes.

Senator Watt: At this point, it is unknown how much coral there is in the water?

Mr. Krautter: Yes: The warm-water scleractinian corals, which form the Great Barrier Reef, for example, are much easier to get. You do not have to go down 500 metres; you just snorkel down to them. It is easier to get warm water corals than cold water corals.

Senator Campbell: You said that we have lost 50 per cent of the glass sponges. Where were they on Figure 8? Was there a continuous line coming down the coast at one time?

Mr. Krautter: No: We gathered the data on these early sites with sonar imagery. A large area of the continental shelf was mapped with this kind of mapping system. Using the sonar data we chose locations to go down to with the submersible. Many of these locations no longer existed as they had been trawled. We saw reef structures on the side scan imagery from the 1960s and 1970s, and they were missing on the multi-beam, which is more accurate. We can clearly figure out how much of the reef area is gone.

Senator Campbell: Would that be in specific areas where fishermen trawl year after year?

Mr. Krautter: Yes, that is the case, in my opinion.

Senator Campbell: It does not make sense to me that you can obtain money from your government to come to Canada to study this reef but we do not see any matching funds from our government. Have you ever approached the Canadian government?

Mr. Krautter: No: I received the money from Germany and was happy to have it.

Senator Campbell: This is good. On behalf of the Canadian government, thank you very much, but given the nature of this reef and its importance in the world, the federal government should match any money you get. Can Natural Resources Canada get their hands on some of this money?

Mr. Krautter: I do not know.

Senator Campbell: That is fine.

These sponges are not seen in Alaska or in Washington?

Mr. Krautter: They are seen in Alaska, but not in Washington. In Alaska they are random. You would see specimens three kilometres apart.

Senator Campbell: You do not see the structuring that we see in this illustration?

Mr. Krautter: No: The density of sponges in B.C. is found nowhere else on earth. It is totally restricted to the waters of British Columbia.

Senator Campbell: Thank you for coming all the way from Germany to visit us.

Senator Cowan: I have one follow-up question. On Figure 8, a box is labelled "bottom trawl closure.'' Is there no bottom trawling from Prince Rupert in the north to Victoria in the south?

Ms. Jessen: No: If you look closely at the areas marked in orange and red, there are boxes within those areas. It is not a clear copy. There are little black lines surrounding the red, which are the reefs. There are closures right around the reefs within those buffer areas that have been identified. Closures definitely do not extend to the whole coast; they are right around the actual reefs shown there. The buffers are shown outside of that.

The Deputy Chairman: I want to ask a few questions before we wrap up tonight. One is about the adoption by the United Nations of the resolution on sustainable fisheries to declare an immediate moratorium on high seas bottom trawling. Has CPAWS taken a position on this issue?

Ms. Jessen: Yes: We support the call for a moratorium on the high seas.

The Deputy Chairman: Does CPAWS agree with Canada's position?

Ms. Jessen: I do not think Canada has supported that moratorium.

The Deputy Chairman: Do you support it?

Ms. Jessen: Yes, we support that moratorium.

The Deputy Chairman: Can you comment on why progress has been so slow in developing marine protected areas, and why it has taken so long for Canada to fund the implementation of the Oceans Act, as you say in your brief?

Ms. Jessen: I would say it is an issue of leadership, as well as funding. Canada has not made the oceans agenda a real priority. That is shown by the level of funding and how long it took for funding to be allocated to implement the act.

For example, on the sponge reefs, we have asked four ministers of fisheries and oceans to declare marine protected areas around the sponge reefs, and not one has done it yet. When we went to every community around the B.C. coast, people would ask why the sponge reefs are not marine protected areas and why is Canada not giving them long-term protection. I do not know what to say to people. I cannot get a clear answer from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans as to why those areas cannot be marine protected areas, and why we cannot give them the long-term protection they deserve.

The Deputy Chairman: You were on the Minister's Advisory Council on Oceans, which was disbanded in 2005. Were you there when it was disbanded?

Ms. Jessen: Yes, I was there from the beginning to the end.

The Deputy Chairman: Why was it disbanded?

Ms. Jessen: I am not sure. I think there was a thought that we had served the purpose of getting to the first phase of the Oceans Action Plan. A number of people have suggested that now that the Oceans Action Plan is being implemented, there is still a need for some kind of external advice to the minister and to the department. Maybe that needs to look a little different. Certainly, the commissioner thought that kind of advice would be useful.

The Deputy Chairman: Thank you very much for coming and for your presentations. Your recommendations are excellent. We have all enjoyed hearing from you and particularly learning so much about the sponge and coral underneath our seas in British Columbia. There is much work to be done. Keep up your good work. Hopefully, we will hear from you again in the future.

The committee adjourned.