| WWF-Canada

Canada's Pacific Treasure

Off British Columbia's west coast, 25 metres under the sea, lies Canada's 7th marine wonder of our world.
Imagine an underwater mountain teeming with sea life and rising 3100 metres - almost 2 miles high - from the ocean floor. That's higher than Whistler Mountain and almost as tall as the third highest peak in Canada.

Bowie Seamount is a veritable oasis in the open ocean for an astonishing abundance of marine life. The largest in a protected chain of three underwater mountains, it lies 180 kilometres west of Haida Gwaii, off British Columbia's West Coast.
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Rockfish swim at the summit of Bowie Seamount
© Neil McDaniel

Marine Treasure

Bowie is special among seamounts because it is one of the shallowest in the Northeast Pacific rising close enough to the ocean surface to allow research divers to explore its mysteries.

In August 2003, BC photographer Neil McDaniel joined a research expedition to take biological inventory of Bowie's marine life.

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	© DFO/Bowie Seamout
© DFO/Bowie Seamout
The Haida people know it as Sgaan Kinghlas, "Supernatural Being Looking Outward", causing speculation that at one time this submerged mountain peak rose above water.
When Neil and fellow divers entered the depths of the seamount, 90 feet down, they marvelled at the intense blue waters, usually only found in BC's shallows.

Ocean currents draw nutrient rich waters to the shores' of these undersea islands feeding a vast diversity of aquatic life shown here in McDaniel's photos. Sea stars, anemones, sponges, and coral beds flourish on Bowie's surface. McDaniel was awed by the abundance and diversity of fish species that engulfed him - halibut, red rockfish, sculpin, prowfish and sablefish.

While seamounts remain largely a mystery, Sgaan Kinghlas is also believed to be an essential stopping point for Orca, humpback and Northern right whales, Stellar sea lions and migratory birds and fish.
 
	© Neil McDaniel/WWF-Canada
Dive members of the 2003 expedition examine an unusual moss crab found on Bowie.
© Neil McDaniel/WWF-Canada
Dive members of the 2003 expedition examine an unusual moss crab found on Bowie.
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Juvenile yelloweye rockfish, Bowie Seamount
© Neil McDaniel/WWF-Canada

Conservation Opportunity

On April 2008, Bowie Seamount and neighbouring Hodgkins Seamount were made a marine protected area to be jointly managed by the Council of the Haida Nation and Canadian government. WWF-Canada celebrates this example of how significant conservation goals can be achieved through collaboration between federal and First Nations governments, industry and environmental organizations. It is the 7th special marine environment to be made a protected area in Canada.

Sgaan Kinghlas-Bowie's designation as a marine protected area is significant because seamounts are fragile ecosystems particularly vulnerable to exploitation. While seamounts have large fish populations, their remote location means it can take a long time for stocks to be replenished by fish from distant coastal areas. Sensitive habitats, such as the coral beds and sea sponges found on Sgaan Kinghlas-Bowie, are also vulnerable to damage from human activities.
 
	© Neil McDaniel / WWF-Canada
The long-rayed rainbow star Orthasterias koehleri preys upon sessile invertebrates such as mussels and scallops.
© Neil McDaniel / WWF-Canada
 
	© MCDANIEL, Neil / WWF-Canada
A Red Irish Lord (Hemilepidotus hemilepidotus), a colourful sculpin that reaches 30 cm long, on the Bowie Seamount off the coast of British Columbia, Canada.
© MCDANIEL, Neil / WWF-Canada
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Click to enlarge
© WWF-Canada
The discussions that led to the designation of Sgaan Kinghlas-Bowie allow for a limited sablefish fishery to continue in one zone of the protected area, leaving the other two zones fully protected - a model that supports limited sustainable use while protecting a unique ecosystem.

Since the designation, WWF-Canada has continued to work with governments and stakeholders to champion a strong management plan for Sgaan Kinghlas-Bowie Seamount. One that ensures the limited human activity allowed will take place in a responsible manner - in order to preserve this unique Pacific treasure.

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Bowie Seamount

Sgaan Kinghlas