The Glass Sponge

On the deep reefs of Howe Sound, British Columbia, Canada, reside one of the oldest and strangest life forms on all of planet earth - the Glass Sponge.

Living in singles or large colonies with bodies in the shape of clouds or long tubes with right angle spikes, the glass sponge grows in different morphologies depending on depths and currents. Colours range from pure white to cream to bright orange.

Voraciously, they filter feed in the currents by pumping ocean water though their side walls and expelling it out their top chimney or osculum.

The sponge grows in two types of environments: sponge gardens and sponge bioherms or reefs.

Sponge bioherms consists of flat reef areas that are being built up by the dead debris of old sponge while sponge gardens are sponge on rocky outcroppings and steeper walls.

Sequestered under the large living crowns of the sponge is the silica from ten of thousand years of growth.

Entrenched in this mass is carbon from the decayed sponge tissue and expelled sediment. Hexactinellid sponge skeletons are formed out of the silica that they remove from the sea water. Both types of sponge areas are important habitat for many types of rockfish and other fish life.

These shallow sponge beds are totally unique to Howe Sound and are in desperate need of complete protection and documentation.

To reach this goal the UCBC has teamed up with other local associations to undertake a Citizen Science initiative involving a series of first-time-ever deep dive explorations of these sites.

This exploratory dive series will be undertaken by a team of very accomplished divers, consisting of head divers Hamish Tweed and Chris Straub. One of the most important aspects of five of the Howe Sound sponge bioherms is that they are air gas dive-able, but the other sponge bioherms are deeper and can only be reached by technical gas diving.

These are all newly discovered sites, hence the first ever dives made by humans.  

Over a dozen of these sponge beds have been discovered and identified.