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Ottawa weighs how to protect right whales with loosened fishing restrictions

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Canada signalled Tuesday it is willing to impose less severe fishing restrictions to protect endangered north Atlantic right whales in Atlantic Canada — provided it is satisfied those measures will still prevent whale deaths.

Federal fisheries minister Jonathan Wilkinson told a roundtable of industry, environmentalists and academics in Dartmouth, N.S., that his department will examine “different pathways” for next year.

“Maybe there are other ways of going about looking at triggers,” Wilkinson later told CBC News.

Earlier this year, the Department of Fisheries and Ocean imposed sweeping closures to prevent a repeat of 2017, when 12 of the critically endangered whales died in Canadian waters.

Canada considers the stricter measures at least partly responsible for the fact that no right whales have died in Canadian waters so far this year. 

Wilkinson told the group that as a result of the initiatives in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, not one whale died this summer from being hit by a ship or getting snarled in fishing line. (Robert Short/CBC)

New pilot project unveiled

Wilkinson also announced a new pilot project with lobster fishermen on New Brunswick’s Grand Manan Island.

Among the steps is a requirement for fishermen to cut the trailing buoy upon sighting a right whale to reduce rope in the water.

“That is a focus of trying to adapt measures to local circumstances and those are the kinds of things we are going look at going forward,” Wilkinson said.

The president of the Grand Manan Fishermen’s association, Brian Guptill, hopes the pilot will avert what happened in June when a single right whale whale transiting their fishing area led to an automatic 15-day shutdown.

“Long before the closure ever went in place, that whale was gone. It is a knee-jerk reaction set in motion because of events that happened the year before in the Gulf… It was millions of dollars, it  had serious consequences.”

A right whale side-feeds just below the surface of Cape Cod Bay off shore from Wellfleet, Mass. (Center for Coastal Studies/NOAA permit #19315/AP)

The government also claims its tough measures ensured Canada met U.S. marine mammal protection legislation and helped maintained access to United States market for Canadian producers.

“There is an outcome we all need to be working toward. That is no mortalities of right whales,” Wilkinson told the roundtable.

Closures went too far, fishermen say

Many in the audience like Eugene O’Leary of the Guysborough County Inshore Fishermen’s Association say the blanket closures imposed in 2018 went too far.

“They overreacted. They tried to please our American buddies down south. I think other things could have been done,” O’Leary says.

Federal fisheries minister Jonathan Wilkinson was in Dartmouth, N.S., Tuesday to discuss protections for the endangered right whale with the region’s fishing industry. (Robert Short/CBC)

Guysborough is an area where right whales transit en route to the Gulf of St Lawrence. He fears a blanket closure during the local season.

“If it happens to us I don’t know what we’ll do,” he says.

He welcomed the Grand Manan pilot.

“That’s a good start. I believe has done something that makes it look like he wants to work with us rather than you are going to do this this and this.”

Flexibility for snow crab fleet? 

Martin Noel of New Brunswick’s Acadian Crab Fishermen’s Association hopes flexibility in 2019 will mean the snow crab fleet will be allowed to fish in areas of the Gulf of St Lawrence where  whales were present in 2018 until the whales arrive.

“That would benefit a lot for fishermen — about 30 per cent of the biomass is in that area. It’s major. It’s major. If we can access that area before whales arrive, we will be able to accomplish a lot in terms of catching our quota and when the whales arrive the area can be closed,” he says.

Sean Brilliant of the Canadian Wildlife Federation points out no decisions have been made, but the approach is different.

“These rules came out of the blue last year. There was no discussion. The rules just came down. Now there’s more discussion. There’s talking about what the risk is,” he says.

DFO will hold a scientific conference next month in Montreal on the issue. The fishing rules to protect right whales will be put in place for the 2019 season.

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The ‘Maple Majestic’ wants to be Canada’s homegrown Tesla

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Look out Tesla, Canada has a homegrown electric sedan on the way. Well, that’s if AK International Motor Corporation can drum up enough investment to make its EV a reality. Dubbed the “Maple Majestic,” the vehicle is a battery-electric designed to “excel in extreme climate performance without adversely affecting the climate, as befits a vehicle from Canada,” according to its website.

What’s in a name? — The company says the maple leaf is a “symbol of Canada’s warmth and friendliness towards all cultures,” while “majestic” refers to the country’s “status as a Constitutional Monarchy.”

That patriotism carries over into Maple Majestic’s parent company’s lofty goals. AK Motor founder Arkadiusz Kaminski says he wants the company, which he founded in 2012, to become “Canada’s first multi-brand automotive OEM,” and that the “Maple Majestic is intended to be Canada’s flagship brand of automobiles on the world stage.”

Partnerships are key — “We acknowledge that the best chance for the Maple Majestic brand to succeed, lies in continuing to build the relationship with Canada’s parts suppliers and technological innovators, whether they be academic institutions, corporations, or individual inventors,” the company explains. “We are currently seeking partners in automotive engineering, parts manufacturing, automotive assembly, electric propulsion technology, battery technology, autonomous technology, and hybrid power generation technology.”

In other words, don’t expect to be able to buy a Maple Majestic any time soon… and don’t expect to pour over 0-60 mph times, power output, range, or other key stats, because those don’t currently exist. For now, all we have are pictures and a short video clip. But at least those are arresting.

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PE-backed Quorum Software to merge with Canadian energy tech firm

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Houston-based energy technology company Quorum Software will merge with a Canadian tech firm to bolster its presence in oil and gas services.

Quorum announced Feb. 15 it plans to merge with Calgary, Alberta-based Aucerna, a global provider of planning, execution and reserves software for the energy sector. The combined firm will operate under the Quorum Software brand.

Gene Austin, CEO of Quorum Software, will continue in his capacity as chief executive of the combined firm. Austin, former CEO of Austin-based marketing tech firm Bazaarvoice Inc., became CEO of Quorum in December 2018.

Aucerna co-founder and CEO Wayne Sim will be appointed to the Quorum Software board of directors. Both companies are backed by San Francisco- and Chicago-based private equity firm Thoma Bravo.

“Over the last 20 years, Quorum has become the leading innovator of software deployed by North American energy companies,” said Austin. “Today, Quorum is expanding the scope of our technology and expertise to all energy-producing regions of the globe. Customers everywhere will have access to a cloud technology ecosystem that connects decision-ready data from operations to the boardroom.”

In addition to the merger announcement, Quorum Software announced it had entered into an agreement with Finnish IT firm TietoEvry to purchase TietoEvry’s entire oil and gas business. The agreement, which includes hydrocarbon management, personnel and material logistics software and related services, is valued at 155 million euros, or $188 million, according to a statement from TietoEvry.

“Our three organizations complement each other — from the software that our great people design to the energy markets where we operate,” said Sim. “Our new company will be able to deliver value to our stakeholders, while accelerating the growth of our combined business and the energy industry’s software transformation.”

The combined company will serve over 1,800 energy companies in 55 countries, according to the announcement. With its headquarters in Houston, Quorum will continue to have a significant presence in Calgary and in Norway, the headquarters for TietoEvry’s oil and gas software business. Quorum will have other offices throughout North America, Latin America, Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

As of Sept. 30, 2020, private equity firm Thoma Bravo had more than $73 billion in assets under management. In late December 2020, Thoma Bravo agreed to acquire Richardson, Texas-based tech firm RealPage in a roughly $10 billion acquisition.

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Piece of Kitchener technology lands on Mars on Perseverance rover

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KITCHENER — A piece of Kitchener technology has landed on Mars, thanks to NASA’s Perseverance rover.

The rover settled on the planet’s surface on Thursday afternoon. It’s been travelling through space since it was launched from Cape Canaveral, Fla. in July.

“The whole idea of being on a device that we’re sending to another plant with the express mission of looking for traces of past life, it’s pretty mind boggling actually,” said Rafal Pawluczyk, chief technical officer for FiberTech Optica.

The Kitchener-based company made fibre optic cables for the rover’s SuperCam that will examine samples with a camera, laser and spectrometers.

“The cables that we built take the light from that multiplexer and deliver it to each spectrograph,” Pawluczyk said.

The cables connect a device on the rover to the SuperCam, which will be used to examine rock and soil samples, to spectrometers. They’ll relay information from one device to another.

The project started four years ago with a connection to Los Alamos National Lab, where the instruments connected to the cables were developed.

“We could actually demonstrate we can design something that will meet their really hard engineering requirements,” Pawluczyk said.

The Jezero Crater is where the Perseverance rover, with FiberTech Optica’s technology onboard, landed Thursday. Scientists believe it was once flooded with water and is the best bet for finding any evidence of life. FiberTech’s cables will help that in that search.

Ioannis Haranas, an astrophysicist and professor at Wilfrid Laurier University, said the rover isn’t looking for “green men.”

“They’re looking for microbial, single-cell life, any type of fossils and stuff like that,” Haranas said. “That’s why they chose a special landing site. This could be very fertile land for that.”

“It’s very ambitious,” said Ralf Gellert, a physics professor at the University of Guelph.

Gellert helped with previous rover missions and said it’s the first time a Mars rover has landed without a piece of Guelph technology on it. While he’s not part of Perseverance’s mission, he said the possibilities are exciting.

“Every new landing site is a new piece of the puzzle that you can put together with the new results that we have from the other landing sites,” he said.

“It’s scientifically very interesting because, even though we don’t have an instrument on that rover, we can compare what the new rover Perseverance finds at this new landing site,” he said.

Now that Perseverance has landed on Mars, FiberTech is looking ahead to its next possible mission into space.

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