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DFO tries to allay fishermen’s fears that protected area would impact livelihood

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The two-lane highway along Nova Scotia’s Eastern Shore is dotted with dozens of signs declaring “No Marine Protected Area Here!”

It’s a sign, literally, of organized opposition to a proposed 2,000-square-kilometre marine protected area.

The Eastern Shore Islands area is the first coastal candidate in Canada with an active inshore commercial fishery, albeit a small one with just 150 lobster fishermen. Still, they are a mainstay of the local economy and leading the opposition.

The fishermen fear a marine protected area, or MPA, would automatically lead to so-called no-take zones, barring industrial activities like harvesting.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans is moving to put those fears at rest.

“We will not be making a recommendation for there to be a zone of high protection within the MPA,” said Wendy Williams, director of DFO Maritimes Oceans Management.

A “No Marine Protected Area Here!” sign is seen along Nova Scotia’s Eastern Shore. (Robert Short/CBC)

Last week, the department presented the results of a draft risk assessment to an advisory committee established to recommend what should or should not be allowed inside Eastern Shore Islands.

The committee was created after the department declared the unspoiled archipelago of hundreds of islands an area of interest. It is the first step on the road to designation as a marine protected area under the federal Oceans Act.

The risk assessment concluded the lobster fishery would not harm the kelp beds, eel grass and cod nursery the federal government wants to protect.

“The predominant activity that takes place there is the lobster fishery. It’s a low-impact fishery. It only operates two months a year, so we feel it’s not necessary to have a no-take,” Williams said in an interview.

“We talked to the advisory committee about that and what we heard and unanimously around the table is that they felt the same way. So in our design going forward we will not be incorporating a no-take zone.”

Fishermen seek assurances

But fisherman Peter Connors is not declaring victory.

“You have to remember this is deathbed conversion,” he said.

As president of the Eastern Shore Fishermen’s Protective Association, Connors represents the 150 active lobster fishermen in the area.

He does not trust DFO and is seeking some sort of legally binding commitment from federal Fisheries Minister Jonathan Wilkinson honouring Williams’s promise.

As president of the Eastern Shore Fishermen’s Protective Association, Peter Connors represents the 150 active lobster fishermen in the area. (Robert Short/CBC)

“I want to know the mechanism that he’s going to use and just how he intends to secure that for future generations,” said Connors. “I don’t want a trust me proposition and I don’t want a temporary reprieve … just because they are facing a lot of opposition now.”

Connors acknowledged a marine protected area on the Eastern Shore could help “Canada’s brand” from a marketing perspective. The country has committed to protecting 10 per cent of its ocean by 2020.

‘Give and take’

Environmentalists have watched in frustration as opposition to Eastern Shore Islands galvanized over the prospect of no-take zones.

Susanna Fuller, senior projects manager for conservation organization Oceans North, urged DFO to eliminate no-take zones from the discussion last year.

“Since it has been such an issue of contention, we are hoping that this gives the community and the fishermen a sense that they are being heard,” said Fuller.

“For this process to go forward there needs to be some give and take.”

While DFO has decided to allow unrestricted lobster fishing inside Eastern Shore Islands, Williams said no precedent has been set.

“Every MPA is different. If people have their expectations raised in any particular way because of what we’re looking at now for this MPA, they really shouldn’t. Everything is unique and we need to look at it that way,” she said.

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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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How do you ship a 300 million-year-old tree stump? Very carefully

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In the technical shop at the Museum of Natural History in Halifax, a stone column is being prepared for shipping.

But this is no ordinary column. It’s a fossilized tree stump.

The stump is from a tree from 300 million years ago. It was part of a tropical forest south of the equator at the heart of the supercontinent Pangea.

“Trees at this time had quite a bit of hollow space, their vascular structure was around the bark area, and the inside was very loose,” said Tim Fedak, curator of geology at the Nova Scotia Museum. “So as fossils they formed because sand filled in the inside of the tree.”

Over millions of years, the tree moved thousands of kilometres, as Nova Scotia drifted northward. The fossil was discovered in the cliffs at Joggins.

Tim Fedak is the curator of geology at the Nova Scotia Museum. (Moira Donovan/CBC)

Now, it’s about to be moved again, to join other fossils from across Canada in a new “Dawn of Life” gallery at the Royal Ontario Museum.

“It’s a really important exhibit that’s opening at ROM,” said Fedak. “And this becomes a beacon to bring people’s awareness and attention … to Nova Scotia.”

Making sure the tree arrives at the ROM in one piece is “almost an art form,” said Fedak. 

“You can’t just put it in a box and and wrap it in Styrofoam,” he said.

When an object like this needs to be moved, a crate is built specifically for the purpose. Senior preparator Corey Mullins said the process has two guiding philosophies. 

“One, you build a crate that looks like it’s going to fall apart so people are really careful with it. Or you build a crate that, you know, someone could drive a truck over. And we usually use the second philosophy.”

A silicon rubber mould of the tree. (Moira Donovan/CBC)

When the fossil is ready to be shipped, it will be wrapped in a waterproof membrane and put into a crate equipped with a set of inner ribs. Then it will be sent to Ontario with a shipper specializing in moving museum goods.

Construction on the new gallery is set to start this year and is due to open in 2021.

But while the stump is at the ROM, it’ll still have a presence in Nova Scotia.

The museum has made highly-detailed moulds of the stump from silicon rubber. Casts from these moulds can be sent back to Joggins, to other museums or used in exhibits like augmented-reality displays or dioramas that show what the inside of one of these trees would have looked like.

The tree will travel to Ontario is this wooden crate. (Moira Donovan/CBC)

“It’s actually the inside of these trees that’s the most spectacular thing about Joggins and the reason Joggins is what it is today, said Fedak.

“Because in the mid-1800’s, paleontologists William Dawson and Charles Lyell were walking along the beach at Joggins and they found the bones of early reptiles inside the stumps of these trees … so historically the site’s been really important for those bones.”

Representing Nova Scotia ‘to a really high level’

For more than a hundred years, these Lepidodendron trees have been helping people understand the Carboniferous period.

Now, Fedak said this fossil will spread that knowledge to more than a million visitors to the ROM a year.

“The stump will eventually come back to Nova Scotia,” said Fedak. “But while it’s there, it represents Nova Scotia to a really high level, and it speaks back to a history that goes back to 1850 — the dawn of paleontology science and geology.”

This stump will also be representing a more recent legacy, Fedak said — that of Don Reid, the man who found it.

Reid died in 2016. In his life, he was named “the keeper of the cliffs” and recognized with the Order of Nova Scotia for having played an essential part in the designation of the Joggins fossil cliffs as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

John Calder, Reid’s longtime friend, said walking the cliffs was a daily ritual for Reid. Through a lifetime of careful collecting, he amassed a huge collection of fossils, which he bequeathed to the fossil centre.

“And it became, and it still is, the heart of the collection of the World Heritage site,” he said.

Prized collection

The fossilized stump was prized part of that collection.

Calder says Reid would be delighted to know that it’ll now form part of a gallery aimed at teaching even more people about the dawn of life.

“He just had this incredible love for the fossils of the cliffs, and he really wanted to share his love of the fossils and his fascination with them with other people,” Calder said.

“And so the idea of this fossil emissary going to the ROM to speak for Joggins and … this whole time period of Earth history — he would be thrilled.”

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