Canada’s First Known Coral Reef Found

No Canadian coral reef had ever graced the radar of ocean researchers. Then a rich reef off the coast of British Columbia suddenly appeared — one that First Nations peoples always suspected was there.

Deep sea ecologist Cherisse Du Preez partnered with the Kitasoo Xai’xais and Heiltsuk First Nations in 2021 to hunt a “bump on the sea floor,” the Toronto Sun reported. On their last chance to explore the bottom of Finlayson Channel, about 500 kilometers northwest of Vancouver, their hunch paid off.

That’s where the Lophelia coral reef bursts with life under about 200 meters of water.

undersea ecosystem

Colorful Fuzzy Crabs in three different species of glass sponges growing on the coral reef (orange and pink branches). Photo: Government of Canada


“You light it up and you realize you’re the first person to ever see this, beautiful pinks and purples and yellows, crevasses, mounts. And once you see past the corals, you realize that there are other animals on them,” Du Preez, head of Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s deep sea ecology program, told the Sun.

Her team’s remote-controlled submersible revealed the scene, which was also bursting with animals like octopuses, crabs, and schooling fish.

Northernmost known coral reef

Lophelia is the northernmost known coral reef in the Pacific Ocean, according to the Fisheries Department. That was part of its rationale for shutting down fishing in the area indefinitely.

“This site, while small, is a globally unique reef that is highly susceptible to damage, most notably from fishing gear,” said the department about its decision.

First Nations peoples weren’t certain the reef existed but noticed something was causing fish to congregate there.

Slett, Du Preez, and others now look to conserve the reef long-term. They’ll get help from the Fisheries Department, which closed the area to “all commercial and recreational bottom-contact fisheries” last month.

Sam Anderson

Sam Anderson takes any writing assignments he can talk his way into while intermittently traveling the American West and Mexico in search of margaritas — er, adventure. He parlayed a decade of roving trade work into a life of fair-weather rock climbing and truck dwelling before (to his parents’ evident relief) finding a way to put his BA in English to use. Sam loves animals, sleeping outdoors, campfire refreshments and a good story.