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Seafood giant Clearwater convicted of ‘gross violation’ in lobster fishery





Canadian seafood giant Clearwater was convicted of “gross violation” of fisheries regulations last fall after senior management ignored federal government warnings to change the way the company conducts its monopoly offshore lobster fishery, CBC News has learned.

The decision to prosecute North America’s largest shellfish producer occurred amid a lengthy and still ongoing lobby effort by Clearwater to change the rule it broke: a Canadian requirement that fishing gear at sea must be tended every 72 hours.

Clearwater company CS ManPar was convicted for storing 3,800 lobster traps on the ocean bottom off the Nova Scotia coast for upward of two months in the fall of 2017 — for 17 consecutive days on one occasion, 31 consecutive days on another.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) says the practice poses a “serious conservation risk” because lobster and other species can be unintentionally caught.

“This was a gross violation,” federal Crown prosecutor Derek Schnare told provincial court in Shelburne, N.S., on Sept. 20.

CBC News has obtained the submitted evidence and audio recording in the case, which has not been publicly reported.

A Clearwater spokesperson would not comment on the company’s conduct.

720-tonne monopoly

Halifax-headquartered Clearwater has exclusive rights to Lobster Fishing Area 41, which starts 80 kilometres from shore and runs to the 200-mile limit, extending from Georges Bank to the Laurentian Channel between Cape Breton and Newfoundland.

The company fishes entirely off southern Nova Scotia. Unlike every other lobster fishery, there is no season and Clearwater has been awarded a quota of 720 tonnes, which it says represents about 15 per cent of all lobster it sells.

The Randell Dominaux is shown at dock. (Robert Short/CBC)

During the fall of 2017, Clearwater’s only offshore lobster vessel, the Randell Dominaux, was either tied up or carrying out a scientific scallop survey for the University of Maine. Schnare said leaving the traps on the ocean floor was cheaper than taking them ashore.

The offence was made worse because in 2016, DFO explicitly warned senior Clearwater management to stop its long-standing practice of storing traps offshore.

The first warning was delivered in a PowerPoint briefing by fishery officers in June 2016 and later in an August 2016 followup letter to Christine Penney, vice-president of sustainability and public affairs for Clearwater Seafoods and CS ManPar.

The PowerPoint presentation by DFO’s conservation and protection branch detailed widespread non-compliance by Clearwater. It said that in 2014, the company left 8,500 traps in the water for 68 days while the Randell Dominaux was in dry dock.

In December that year, DFO carried out an at-sea boarding of the Randell Dominaux that revealed “a significant marine resource loss directly linked to the fishing practices.”

Two trawls, which are strings of traps, that had been “soaking” for 13 days contained 128 dead lobsters, 53 weak and bitten lobsters, 60 claws and 18 groundfish.

Even traps stored at sea unbaited and with escape panels removed still continued to fish, DFO said. In one case, 3,400 traps that were unbaited were hauled and found to contain 15,000 pounds (6,804 kg) of lobster.

The written followup from DFO Maritimes regional director Doug Wentzell contained more detail. It noted that in 2015, the company failed to tend gear for a period of 98 days and numerous trawls went untended for 15 days or more. Wentzell also said the traps were stored without required buoy markings.

“Two prior warnings were given by DFO to stop the practice of unlawfully storing gear at sea,” Schnare told the court in September. “Despite this warning, however, the practice continued.” 

The warnings were not passed on to the two captains of the Randell Dominaux, a decision criticized by Schnare as a failure of corporate responsibility.

‘Serious conservation risk’

Evidence presented in court included impact statements from DFO Maritimes Region managers Sara Quigley and Cathy Merriman outlining the threat posed by untended traps, from potential entanglements with whales to unintended catches of lobster and other species.

“As these impact statements illustrate, the practice of leaving untended traps in the oceans represents a serious conservation risk to Canada’s marine resources, both commercial and non-commercial species,” Schnare told provincial court Judge Claudine MacDonald.

Three Clearwater companies were in court that day, charged with violating Section 115.2 of the Atlantic Fishery Regulations:

  • Clearwater Seafood Inc.
  • Clearwater Seafood Limited Partnership.
  • CS ManPar Inc., the corporate entity that owns the vessel.

CS ManPar pleaded guilty and charges against the two other Clearwater entities were dropped.

Lobster traps are shown in Eastern Passage, N.S., on Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2019. (Robert Short/CBC)

Schnare told the court Clearwater’s offence was mitigated because in this case, which dealt with the 2017 violations, the traps were not baited and escape panels were removed.

“This offence would be considered much more serious in the Crown’s view if the traps were left soaking while baited and fully functional,” he said.

That fact did not, he said, remove the risk of bycatch or lobster spoilage, and had no impact on the risk of lost traps or gear conflict with other fishermen.

The company was fined $30,000. ​Schnare suggested the amount was chosen to limit a tax benefit for Clearwater. In a statement to CBC News, Clearwater said it would not be able to deduct any fine.

Clearwater conduct ‘seems arrogant’

Environmentalist Shannon Arnold of the Ecology Action Centre in Halifax applauds the Department of Fisheries for acting.

“It just seems arrogant to ignore the regulator like that,” she said in an interview. “I think it’s important the government gets out there and shows that there is a level playing field and they aren’t going to let different parts of the fleet and different corporations versus independent fishermen play by different rules.”

Arnold raised conservation concerns in 2016 and 2017 about Clearwater storing traps with both DFO and the Marine Stewardship Council, which certifies the Clearwater offshore lobster fishery as environmentally sustainable.

In 2017, the company employed by MSC to audit Clearwater — Acoura — accepted Clearwater’s word that it was not storing traps, telling Arnold the company had confirmed it was not doing so.

“Clearwater might as well have been certifying themselves,” said Arnold.

She wants evidence Clearwater has ended the practice.

Halifax-headquartered Clearwater has a monopoly in Lobster Fishing Area 41 off Nova Scotia. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)

That is an assurance Clearwater would not provide when asked by CBC News. Instead, Penney, the vice-president, said DFO has admitted the 72-hour rule is “impractical.” In an email, she said DFO “has initiated a regulatory amendment to provide the flexibility around the 72 hour gear tending rule.”

“The updated regulations will provide flexibility for cases such as offshore lobster where evidence exists that conservation outcomes are not compromised by such flexibility.”

DFO said it’s reviewing the rule, but harvesters are expected to comply with the 72-hour rule while the review is underway.

“Fishery officers will continue to enforce these regulations as appropriate,” said DFO spokesperson Debbie Buott-Matheson in an email.

The case for throwing the rule overboard

Clearwater has already carried out the first phase of a science study on the effects of different soak times on lobster and bycatch species like cod in the offshore lobster fishery.

According to MSC auditors, the company said its findings have shown longer soak times do not increase bycatch, one of the conservation concerns.

“The study was not a factor for DFO in pursuing an amendment to Section 115.2 of the Atlantic Fishery Regulations,” Buott-Matheson said.

Shannon Arnold is the marine policy co-ordinator with the Halifax-based Ecology Action Centre. (CBC)

That study has not been made public on the grounds it contains proprietary data. DFO said it has not yet issued a science licence for the next phase of Clearwater’s 72-hour soak-time study.

Arnold objects to secrecy surrounding science that is being used to justify a rule change.

“This company has been given a huge swath of public resources that the government manages on behalf of Canadians and you shouldn’t be using privacy rules to stop Canadians from therefore knowing about what’s happening out there.”

MSC, the environmental certification group, said it learned of the Clearwater conviction from CBC News. Its Canadian director, Jay Lugar, said the conviction occurred after the most recent certification audit in August 2018, and Acoura will take it into account in the 2019 audit.

“The certifier deemed that the fisheries activities did not negatively impact the health of bycatch species and thus did not alter the fishery’s score,” Lugar said in the email.


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





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





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





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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