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Off Canada’s East Coast, a hunt to detect ‘beautiful’ great white sharks

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great white shark

HALIFAX — The great white sharks move torpedo-like through East Coast waters, cruelly efficient hunters with multiple rows of serrated teeth devouring seals and other prey.

But the “fascinating” creatures are themselves being closely watched by international teams of scientists who are attempting to document their apparent renaissance in the northwest Atlantic.

“We are seeing signs the conservation measures we’re taking are giving the animals a chance and enabling a comeback,” says Frederick Whoriskey, a marine biologist and ecologist at Dalhousie University.

“But we don’t have the numbers (of their abundance) yet.”

At her lab in Halifax’s Bedford Institute of Oceanography, Heather Bowlby, research lead at the federal Canadian Atlantic Shark Research Laboratory, is attempting to remedy that.

She’s preparing an expedition for early August to build on the scant knowledge of these elusive creatures’ lives in Atlantic Canadian waters.

Her three-person team will pull alongside the animals and rapidly attach a tag that records information, a potentially dangerous task given their immense power.

The work is worth the effort, she says.

“As a top predator, if the population can increase it suggests the ecosystem is healthy enough to support them, which is very important.”

The biologist says there’s been “a definite increase in sightings” since fishing rules of the past decade protected animals caught on long lines and in weirs.

Records go back over a century — complete with annotations such as an 1873 entry from a St. Pierre Bank, N.L., fisherman remarking, “teeth in dory.”

However, the federal Fisheries Department’s partnership with American researcher Gregory Skomal, of the Massachusetts division of marine fisheries, and the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy, will provide more reliable information.

Skomal’s group is preparing a population estimate in his area, where there’s evidence of what scientists refer to as a “hot spot” of sharks at various stages of life feasting on abundant seals off Cape Cod.

“It seems to be their first stop on the highway on the drive from Florida to Canada, where you can find a pretty good meal,” Skomal explains in a telephone interview from his office.

His team’s survey tags an animal and then returns to that area to see how many others are spotted or captured, before recapturing one of the original sharks from the prior visits.

“We have to come up with that number for Cape Cod and then we can take a hard look at what proportion of our animals move into Canadian waters,” the American researcher explains.

Skomal says so far his team has identified and tagged roughly 20 great whites — out of about 170 tagged in the area — that are prone to northward journeys over the five year study in his zone.

In anticipation of their arrival off Nova Scotia, Bowlby’s team has access to arrays of acoustic stations listening for their “ping” over this summer and fall.

She tagged one great white herself last year off the Nova Scotia coast, nicknamed “North.”

The data gathered on the sharks’ trips, the depths they went to and surrounding water temperatures may give Bowlby data on their preferred habitat.

So far, she’s noting the sharks are appearing to search along the coasts for prey and are in both deep and shallow water, and often near the surface.

Still, one of the questions bothering some experts is why great whites are seldom detected by acoustic arrays near Sable Island, where thousands of seals make their home.

Whoriskey’s “speculation” is the grey seals are forming social units that can fight off one of their deadliest enemies.

Meanwhile, a non-profit group that’s made some great white sharks into household names in Nova Scotia has applied for a permit to conduct a return visit off Cape Breton from Sept. 13 to Oct. 4.

Last fall, teams from the Ocearch research vessel MV Ocearch caught and tagged satellite transmitters of seven great whites off Lunenburg and Halifax.

The animals are given Twitter names such as “Hal” and thousands of people follow them on the organization’s online global shark tracker, effectively becoming cheerleaders for great whites’ apparent comeback.

Bob Hueter, Ocearch’s chief science adviser and a shark biologist at Florida’s Mote Marine Laboratory, says his group’s research is showing the wide range of the great white sharks from southern Florida to the Cabot Strait.

“A good proportion we’ve tagged since 2012 have gone to Atlantic Canada waters and have spent time in Nova Scotia,” he said in a telephone interview.

He says his group’s goal is to have fully tagged 60 sharks of various sizes and ages from Florida to Nova Scotia and to track their movements and habitats.

For Bowlby, the end game is greater knowledge on habitat, feeding habits and even shark nursing grounds — though so far none have been found — leading to better informed policy decisions.

For example, if the sharks are once again consuming seals in large numbers, this data can affect policy decisions on permitting a cull of the massive herds.

In addition, there is the curiosity — even awe — over how one of the ocean’s great animals behave in their lifetimes.

“They’re beautiful, they’re fascinating, they’re graceful, they’re powerful. They’re amazing animals,” the scientist says.

— Follow (at)mtuttoncporg on Twitter.

Michael Tutton, The Canadian Press


#visionCanada2119

How an Alberta energy company voluntarily restores caribou habitat in northern Alberta

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Helicopters dropping tree planters into forest corridors.  This is not an image that typically comes to mind when we speak about energy production in Canada.   Truth is, voluntary initiatives like the Caribou Habitat Restoration Project by Cenovus are very much part of everyday life for Alberta energy companies.

Let’s support our families, our neighbours, and our communities by taking a minute to learn about this particular effort.  If you’re already well aware of the environmental focus of Alberta energy companies, you can help by sharing information like this with people you know and encouraging them to do the same.  Just by taking the time to learn something new and sharing this information you are helping to make a difference at home in Alberta, across the country, and around the world!   Thank you for supporting your community, your province, and your country!

Todayville is sharing this video as part of our #visionCanada2119 initiative.

From Cenovus Energy

Caribou Habitat Restoration Project

Our 10-year Caribou Habitat Restoration Project, announced in 2016, is a voluntary environmental initiative that represents the largest single area of boreal caribou habitat restoration undertaken by a company anywhere in the world.

We use proven reforestation techniques to restore old seismic lines, access roads and other linear disturbances. During 2017, we treated approximately 270 kilometres of these linear features in an area comprising about 276 square kilometres. Our restoration program is helping to reduce fragmentation in the Cold Lake caribou herd’s habitat, where our Foster Creek and Christina Lake oil sands projects are located.

Since 2013, we’ve cumulatively treated more than 700 kilometres of these linear disturbances and planted more than 850,000 trees. As part of our 10-year project, we plan to take that total to 3,500 kilometres treated within an area of 3,900 square kilometres – about five times the area of the city of Calgary. We plan to have planted approximately 4 million trees by 2026.

Our project uses techniques such as mounding the ground, planting trees on these mounds, adding woody debris and leaning tree stems into the pathways to help cover historical corridors cut into the forest for seismic work, access roads and other activities. By closing these long open stretches, our work aims to make it harder for wolves to hunt caribou. Woodland caribou are listed as threatened under Canada’s Species at Risk Act.

We continue to measure and monitor the results of our restoration work and share what we learn with others through Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance. For example, we’re a member of the Regional Industry Caribou Collaboration, where producers work collaboratively across individual company tenures and lease boundaries to coordinate habitat restoration in the Cold Lake and East Side Athabasca River caribou herds and conduct research on caribou ecology and how wildlife respond to habitat treatments. We also work on a coordinated caribou approach with our peers at the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers.

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Alberta

Premier Kenney turns into TV host. Interviews Capital Power about groundbreaking new technology

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We’re not sure where he finds the time, but when it comes to promoting Alberta there seems to be no stopping Premier Kenney.  Normally the Premier is on the answering end of these Q & A sessions.  Today the province released this video featuring Premier Kenney in the role of host / reporter, asking questions of Brian Vaasjo, President and CEO of Capital Power.

No doubt many Albertans would prefer that the Premier leave interviewing to the professionals, but this interview proves to be quite informative due to Vaasjo’s excellent description of what could turn out to be an incredible achievement for Alberta business.

From Facebook page of Jason Kenney

A key generator of electricity in Alberta, Capital Power has just announced a series of big investments today.

This will provide more affordable, sustainable power for Albertans, and lead in development of innovative carbon nanotube technology that could have major applications in industries across Alberta!

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december, 2019

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