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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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,
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
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
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
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
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
Mr. Krautter: It is the only habitat.
The Deputy Chairman: What makes it is so special? Is it the rocks, the
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
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
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
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
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
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
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,
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
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
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
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
Mr. Krautter: No: I received the money from Germany and was happy to
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
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
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
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.