Canada's Tentative List

Hecate Strait and Queen Charlotte Sound Glass Sponge Reefs, British Columbia

Glass sponge reefs of this size are not found anywhere else in the world. They are an ecosystem of outstanding geological, paleontological, and biological value. The reefs were discovered in 1987 off the coast of British Columbia after being thought to have gone extinct some 40 million years ago. Covering 1,000 km2 in size and reaching 25 metres in depth, these ancient fossil sponge reefs provide scientists with a unique window in the study of prehistoric ecosystems. The reefs are an important deep-sea habitat. The complex structures provide refuge for many species hundreds of metres below the ocean surface, and support entire communities of marine life, from spot prawns to sharks. The Government of Canada designated a Marine Protected Area in 2017 to protect the Hecate Strait and Queen Charlotte Sound Glass Sponge Reefs.

The World Heritage criteria that best support this site are:

  • (viii) The reefs provide a unique window into marine life in the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods.
  • (ix) The reefs play a formative role in the evolution and development of marine ecosystems.
  • (x) The glass sponge reefs create an oasis of life on an otherwise featureless seabed, in the depths of the Pacific. Their intricate structure provides shelter to numerous species.