The glass sponge reef in Chatham Sound is thought to be one of the oldest in the world. Until the reef in Hecate Strait was discovered in 1987, scientists believed glass sponge reefs were extinct. (Fisheries and Oceans Canada, University of Alberta and Canadian Scientific Submersible Facility)

Glass sponge reef recommended as World Heritage Site

The Hecate Strait and Queen Charlotte Sound Glass Sponge Reefs are among eight nominated sites

Some B.C. landmarks are being added to the list of potential UNESCO world heritage sites.

On Dec. 20, Catherine McKenna, Minister of the Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for Parks Canada, announced the addition of eight new sites to Canada’s Tentative List for World Heritage Sites.

Among those sites added to the list are the Hecate Strait and Queen Charlotte Sound Glass Sponge Reefs — located off the coast of British Columbia.

The glass sponge reefs were discovered in 1987 off the coast of British Columbia after being thought to have gone extinct 40 million years ago.

At 1,000 square km, the reef is unique since no other glass sponge of this size has been located anywhere else in the world. In 2017, the Canadian government designated the reefs as a marine protected area to safeguard them as they are an important deep-seas habitat and are vital to geological, paleontological and biological research.

Also included on the list are Stein Valley in British Columbia, Wanuskewin Heritage Park in Saskatchewan, Anticosti Island in Quebec, Heart’s Content Cable Station Provincial Historic Site in Newfoundland and Labrador, Qajartalik in Nunavut, Sirmilik National Park and the proposed Tallurutiup Imanga National Marine Conservation Area in Nunavut and the Yukon Ice Patches in the Yukon.

This is the first time the tentative list has been updated since 2004. Forty-two applications for new sites were received from across the country during the public process to find candidates for the updated list.

They were then reviewed by an independent ministerial advisory committee of Canadian experts in the fields of natural and cultural heritage.

The Advisory Committee then recommended to the Minister McKenna the addition to the tentative list of those candidates with the strongest potential for successful designation as World Heritage Sites.

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