It takes an skilled deep-water diver like Hamish Tweed to achieve many of the glass sponge reefs.
It’s a must to descend greater than 60 metres into the depths of Howe Sound the place, even in the course of the day, you are sinking into whole darkness.
Tweed has seen loads of glass sponges in his years diving off of B.C.’s South Coast, however these had been particular person animals; the big reefs are totally different. He nonetheless remembers the date of his first go to to one in every of them: Feb. 23, 2013, a Saturday.
When the diver’s underwater mild hits the magnificent, alien reef, its scale comes into focus.
“It is the sheer dimension of the bioherm, or the reef itself, that I feel is the largest shocker for me,” stated Tweed. “It is extra like rolling hills of sponge. And in order that, simply in itself, is overwhelming.”
The reefs had been frequent throughout the Cretaceous interval, greater than 65 million years in the past, however they had been considered extinct till discoveries had been made off the B.C. coast in current a long time. Now, Howe Sound, simply northeast of Vancouver, is acknowledged as a singular place the place the reefs have thrived.
The dive crew prepares for a deep sponge dive, with Hamish Tweed pictured on the proper. (Perpetuum Movies/Moonless Oasis)
They’re known as bioherms, built-up mounds created over 1000’s of years as glass sponges die off, their our bodies hardening into the construction of the reef. Extra glass sponges develop on prime of the heap. The bioherms present small areas through which different creatures can dwell, resulting in terribly wealthy ecosystems.
However the reefs are delicate, and prone to injury by people via fishing exercise, anchoring, and local weather change.
Tweed, together with others concerned within the seek for the reefs and the marketing campaign to guard them, are featured in a brand new documentary, Moonless Oasis.
The group has been very profitable — not solely in finding the reefs (an effort led by Glen Dennison utilizing a drop digital camera from the floor) — but additionally in urging officers to guard them.
Final yr most of the websites had been protected against bottom-contact fishing by the federal authorities.
Now, 10 of the 17 identified glass sponge reefs in Howe Sound are protected as refuges, based on Jessica Schultz, a marine ecologist who was not too long ago a part of Ocean Sensible’s Howe Sound analysis and conservation crew.
“These refuges had been an essential step towards recognizing the ecological significance and the distinctiveness of those reefs, and the following step in conservation is to verify there’s monitoring and enforcement,” stated Schultz.
“It wasn’t a gaggle of politicians and scientists that basically did the heavy lifting on the conservation — it was neighborhood members and people dedicating their very own time,” she stated.
Barrett explores Misplaced Reef within the documentary movie, Moonless Oasis. (Perpetuum Movies/Moonless Oasis)
Schultz stated the reefs are an instance of the wonders which can be nonetheless awaiting discovery and appreciation beneath water, the place it is estimated 90 per cent of species on the ocean ground nonetheless have not been recognized.
However she warns that globally, the ocean’s range is being misplaced.
“We all know that extra numerous ecosystems are good for human well being and prosperity and livelihoods, so it is not an exaggeration to say that each species counts,” stated Schultz.
Highlighting that effort to guard not simply the delicate glass sponge reefs, but additionally the pure surroundings normally, is what impressed Nate Slaco to undertake the movie undertaking. He is the director of Moonless Oasis.
He stated you do not have to be a technical diver like Tweed to make a distinction; in actual fact, he stayed above the floor all through the undertaking.
Tweed discusses physiological reactions to deep diving with Sherri Ferguson in a scene from the documentary, Moonless Oasis. (Perpetuum Movies/Moonless Oasis)
“There’s one thing in your yard that I am positive is value defending and there are issues you are able to do about it,” stated Slaco.
However past the message of conservation, he stated the unusual and wondrous glass sponge reefs drew him in.
“It simply appears to be like like one thing from a distinct planet,” stated Slaco. “It simply appears to be like otherworldly.”