A decade of discussion has concluded with the successful protection of the rich ecosystem at SGaan Kinghlas Bowie Seamount.
SGaan Kinghlas is a dormant submarine volcano in the open ocean 180 kilometres west of Haida Gwaii. The summit towers about three kilometres above the Pacific’s abyssal plain and its peak lies 24 metres below the ocean’s surface.
The mountain supports an array of life. As well as being a high biodiversity hotspot it hosts great concentrations of many thousands of fish that run in tremendous schools. Rare and unique species of corals and glass sponges cover the mountain’s slopes. Vibrant red Isadella tentaculum, a deep-sea bamboo coral discovered in 2004, waves trailing webs of white tentacles in the ocean currents.
The northern seamount sablefish trap-fishery was the only active commercial fishery within the marine protected area. The skil sablefish or black cod trap fishery uses circular cone-shaped traps with bases 1.4 metres wide and tops 0.8 metres wide. About sixty bottom traps are attached to a ground line and dropped to depths between 800 and 1200 metres. Sixty-kilogram weights anchor the sets to the bottom.
To investigate the environmental impact of the fishery, in 2013 the Canadian Sablefish Association partnered with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to put cameras on the traps set at SGaan Kinghlas. The project continued to 2017 and footage showed how current, wind, and waves can drag these traps along the bottom of the ocean through rich ecosystems. Today these scientific findings have led DFO to join the Council of the Haida Nation in closing all bottom-contact fishing at SGaan Kinghlas.
CHN designated SGaan Kinghlas a Haida marine protected area in 1997. In 2007 CHN and Canada established a management board tasked with finalizing a management plan for SGaan Kinghlas, which is anticipated to be completed in 2018. In 2008, Canada joined the Haida Nation, recognizing it as a marine protected area under Canada’s Oceans Act.
Today the delicate corals and sponges that flourish at SGaan Kinghlas will gain further protection from damage, ensuring that they and all the species that rely on the habitat can continue to flourish.