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Only 411 North Atlantic right whales left, says new report

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A new report says there are just 411 North Atlantic right whales left of the rapidly declining species, in what scientists are calling a “significant drop” in the population.

On Friday, the North Atlantic Right Whale Consortium released its 2018 report card for the endangered whales, which lists fishing-gear entanglements and whale strikes as the leading cause of death for these animals.

“It’s not only sad but it’s kind of tragic — and heartbreaking,” Philip Hamilton, a research scientist at the New England Aquarium and co-author of the report, said Monday.

He said the drop from 451 to 411 in just a year is “a big drop for a small population.”

“This is a relatively slow producing species,” Hamilton said “If you lost 40 whales in one year, and there are 400 left, that gives you 10 years if you keep that trajectory.”

But these numbers don’t include the three documented deaths so far in 2018, as the population estimates are done for the previous year once the data can be analyzed.

“One thing that remains pretty clear in the data is that for every whale you see dead on the beach, or floating at sea, there have been two more deaths of that species,” said Scott Kraus, vice-president at the New England Aquarium and the chair-elect for the right whale consortium.

“In other words, we’re only detecting about a third of the deaths in the population. So when we see three in the United States, it means probably a total of nine died.”

This North Atlantic right whale was freed from fishing lines in the Bay of Fundy near Campobello Island in 2017. (International Fund for Animal Welfare)

But the decrease in population is also because for the first time in the 38 years these whales have been monitored, no new calves were born.

The report said that there were 71 breeding females in 2017, down from 105 in 2015. The report also said that entanglements with fishing gear have a big impact on the females — and within three years of a severe entanglement, only about 33 per cent of females survive.

“Those that are able to break free and survive the initial entanglement, they bear scars and wounds that seem to be impacting their ability to reproduce,” Hamilton said. “They either delay or cease reproduction depending on the severity of the wounds from their entanglements.”

But another reason the whales aren’t reproducing is because of climate change. As whales move further away in search of food, Kraus said the animals are using more energy than they’re getting through food — and female whales need to have adequate reserves to carry a calf. 

“In that context, if they take a few years off from having babies, it’s not such a big deal. They can recover from that. But in a population like this though, for them to survive going through several years of not having many kids, we have to stop killing them. That’s the simple answer,” Kraus said.

“Anytime you get below 500 animals in a population, you’re in deep trouble,” said Scott Kraus. (Pat Foster/Adrian Colaprete)

In the last year, Canada implemented new measures to try to protect the right whale, after 12 right whales were reported dead in Canadian waters in 2017, along with another five in U.S. waters.

The report points out that while there haven’t been any deaths in Canadian waters this year, there were still three reported entanglements. One of the U.S. entanglement deaths was caused by Canadian snow crab gear.

But the changes in Canadian waters, which included reducing vessel speeds and temporary fisheries closures when a right whale was spotted, are something both Hamilton and Kraus said were effective.

“That’s moving in the right direction. The question is whether or not that is sustainable,” Hamilton said.

Hamilton said increasing the size of protected areas and trying to remove fishing lines from the water column are some of the big next steps to keeping the species alive.

“The silver lining that I see in the current trajectory is that people will actually realize that we cannot sustain this. It’s going to take really big changes in how we fish and how we ship,” Hamilton said.

“And that’s possible. So hopefully the direness of the situation will be the one thing that saves them.”

In 2017, 12 right whales were confirmed dead in Canadian waters. (Shane Fowler/CBC)

Kraus, too, said the whales can recover from very low numbers

“I do feel optimistic about it largely because many of the shipping and fishing industry groups have really bought on to the idea that they need to change practices to figure out how to co-exist with right whales,” he said.

“So it may take us a few years, but I have a lot of confidence that we’re going to be able to keep guys fishing, keep the shipping going and not kill whales at the same time.”

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Top 5 Analytics Trends That Are Shaping The Future

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Digital transformation is increasingly becoming the focus for many CIOs around the world today—with analytics playing a fundamental role in driving the future of the digital economy.

While data is important to every business, it is necessary for businesses to have a firm grip on data analytics to allow them transform raw pieces of data into important insights. However, unlike the current trends in business intelligence—which is centred around data visualization—the future of data analytics would encompass a more contextual experience.

“The known data analytics development cycle is described in stages: from descriptive (what happened) to diagnostic (why did it happen), to discovery (what can we learn from it), to predictive (what is likely to happen), and, finally, to prescriptive analytics (what action is the best to take),” said Maurice op het Veld is a partner at KPMG Advisory in a report.

“Another way of looking at this is that data analytics initially “supported” the decision-making process but is now enabling “better” decisions than we can make on our own.”

Here are some of the current trends that arealready shaping the future of data analytics in individuals and businesses.

  1. Growth in mobile devices

With the number of mobile devices expanding to include watches, digital personal assistants, smartphones, smart glasses, in-car displays, to even video gaming systems, the final consumption plays a key role on the level of impact analytics can deliver.

Previously, most information consumers accessed were on a computer with sufficient room to view tables, charts and graphs filled with data, now, most consumers require information delivered in a format well optimized for whatever device they are currently viewing it on.

Therefore, the content must be personalized to fit the features of the user’s device and not just the user alone.

  1. Continuous Analytics

More and more businesses are relying on the Internet of Things (IoT) and their respective streaming data—which in turn shortens the time it takes to capture, analyze and react to the information gathered. Therefore, while analytics programspreviously were termed successful when results were delivered within days or weeks of processing, the future of analytics is bound to drastically reduce this benchmark to hours, minutes, seconds—and even milliseconds.

“All devices will be connected and exchange data within the “Internet of Things” and deliver enormous sets of data. Sensor data like location, weather, health, error messages, machine data, etc. will enable diagnostic and predictive analytics capabilities,” noted Maurice.

“We will be able to predict when machines will break down and plan maintenance repairs before it happens. Not only will this be cheaper, as you do not have to exchange supplies when it is not yet needed, but you can also increase uptime.”

  1. Augmented Data Preparation

During the process of data preparation, machine learning automation will begin to augment data profiling and data quality, enrichment, modelling, cataloguing and metadata development.

Newer techniques would include supervised, unsupervised and reinforcement learning which is bound to enhance the entire data preparation process. In contrast to previous processes—which depended on rule-based approach to data transformation—this current trend would involve advanced machine learning processes that would evolve based on recent data to become more precise at responding to changes in data.

  1. Augmented Data Discovery

Combined with the advancement in data preparation, a lot of these newer algorithms now allow information consumers to visualize and obtain relevant information within the data with more ease. Enhancements such as automatically revealing clusters, links, exceptions, correlation and predictions with pieces of data, eliminate the need for end users to build data models or write algorithms themselves.

This new form of augmented data discovery will lead to an increase in the number of citizen data scientist—which include information users who, with the aid of augmented assistance can now identify and respond to various patterns in data faster and a more distributed model.

  1. AugmentedData Science

It is important to note that the rise of citizen data scientist will not in any way eliminate the need for a data scientist who gathers and analyze data to discover profitable opportunities for the growth of a business. However, as these data scientists give room for citizen data scientists to perform the easier tasks, their overall analysis becomes more challenging and equally valuable to the business.

As time goes by, machine learning would be applied in other areas such as feature and model selection. This would free up some of the tasks performed by data scientist and allow them focus on the most important part of their job, which is to identify specific patterns in the data that can potentially transform business operations and ultimately increase revenue.

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Waterloo drone-maker Aeryon Labs bought by U.S. company for $265M

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Waterloo’s Aeryon Labs has been bought by Oregon-based FLIR Systems Inc. for $256 million, or $200 million US.

The acquisition was announced Monday. 

Dave Kroetsch, co-founder and chief technology officer of Aeryon Labs, says not much will change in the foreseeable future.

“The Waterloo operations of Aeryon Labs will actually continue as they did yesterday with manufacturing, engineering and all the functions staying intact in Waterloo and ultimately, we see growing,” he said.

“The business here is very valuable to FLIR and our ability to sell internationally is a key piece of keeping these components of the business here in Canada.”

Aeroyn Labs builds high-performance drones that are sold to a variety of customers including military, police services and commercial businesses. The drones can provide high-resolution images for surveillance and reconnaissance.

The drones already include cameras and thermal technology from FLIR. Jim Cannon, president and CEO of FLIR Systems, said acquiring Aeryon Labs is part of the company’s strategy to move beyond sensors “to the development of complete solutions that save lives and livelihoods.”

‘A piece of a bigger solution’

Kroetsch said this is a good way for the company to grow into something bigger.

“We see the business evolving in much the direction our business has been headed over the last couple of years. And that’s moving beyond the drone as a product in and of itself as a drone as a piece of a bigger solution,” he said.

For example, FLIR bought a drone company that builds smaller drones that look like little helicopters.

“We can imagine integrating those with our drones, perhaps having ours carry their drones and drop them off,” he said.

FLIR also does border security systems, which Kroetsch says could use the drones to allow border agents to look over a hill where there have been issues.

“We see the opportunity there as something that we never could have done on our own but being involved with and part of a larger company that’s already providing these solutions today gives us access not only to these great applications, but also to some fantastic technologies,” he said.

Aeryon Labs has done a lot of work during emergency disasters, including in Philippines after Typhoon Hagupit in 2014, Ecuador after an earthquake in 2016 and the Fort McMurray wildfire in 2016.

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Inuvik infrastructure may not be ready for climate change, says study

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The Arctic is expected to get warmer and wetter by the end of this century and new research says that could mean trouble for infrastructure in Inuvik.

The study from Global Water Futures looked at how climate change could impact Havipak Creek — which crosses the Dempster Highway in Inuvik, N.W.T. — and it predicts some major water changes.

“They were quite distressing,” John Pomeroy, director of Global Water Futures and the study’s lead author, said of the findings.

Researchers used a climate model and a hydrological model to predict future weather and climate patterns in the region. They also looked at data gathered from 1960 to the present. 

If greenhouse gas emissions continue at their current rate — which Pomeroy said they are on track to do — the study projects the region will be 6.1 C warmer by 2099 and precipitation, particularly rain, will increase by almost 40 per cent.

The study also found that the spring flood will be earlier and twice as large, and the permafrost will thaw an additional 25 centimetres. While the soil is expected to be wetter early in the summer, the study said it will be drier in late summer, meaning a higher risk of wildfires.

John Pomeroy is the director of Global Water Futures. (Erin Collins/CBC)

“The model’s painting kind of a different world than we’re living in right now for the Mackenzie Delta region,” Pomeroy said.

He noted these changes are not only expected for Havipak Creek, but also for “many, many creeks along the northern part of the Dempster [Highway].”

Pomeroy said the deeper permafrost thaw and a bigger spring flood could pose challenges for buildings, roads, culverts and crossings in the area that were designed with the 20th century climate in mind.

He said the projected growth of the snowpack and the spring flood are “of grave concern because that’s what washes out the Dempster [Highway] and damages infrastructure in the area.”

Culverts and bridges may have to be adjusted to allow room for greater stream flows, Pomeroy said. And building foundations that are dependent upon the ground staying frozen will have to be reinforced or redesigned.

Pomeroy said the ultimate solution is for humans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“This study is the future we’re heading for, but it’s not the future we necessarily have if we can find a way to reduce those gases,” he said.  

“It’d be far smarter to get those emissions under control than to pay the terrible expenses for infrastructure and endangered safety of humans and destroyed ecosystems.”

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