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N.S. shark derbies cancelled after Fisheries officials say events don’t advance research

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All three shark-fishing tournaments remaining in Nova Scotia have been cancelled this summer, a potentially permanent end to annual events dating back 30 years.

This year, Fisheries and Oceans Canada  (DFO) stopped issuing the science licences used to authorize the derbies and organizers cannot swallow DFO conditions that would have allowed them to continue.

“The bottom line is we’re not going to be able to hold the tournaments any longer,” said Bob Gavel, organizer of the Yarmouth Shark Scramble, largest of the derbies. It ran for 24 years in southwestern Nova Scotia before this summer’s cancellation.

“I’m very disappointed to say the least. It has a great impact on the local economy. It brought tons of tourists to the waterfront — in the thousands.”

This week the Petit de Grat Shark Derby in Cape Breton was called off as well.

The Lockeport Sea Derby in Shelburne County will continue, but only for mackerel and groundfish.

All the derbies are usually held in August.

No scientific justification

For almost a decade, the tournaments have been authorized based on the scientific information they can provide. But Fisheries officials have decided there is no longer any justification for landing sharks for research.

Since 2018 only one species — blue sharks — can be kept. Derby fishing for porbeagle, thresher and shortfin mako sharks have been banned.

People in yellow vests are seen on the hull of a boar while one of them holds a shark down for dissection.
A shark is dissected for research at a previous Yarmouth Shark Scramble. (Yarmouth Shark Scramble website)

DFO said the sample size is also unrepresentative because it includes only a few dozen large, mostly male, blue sharks.

“The issue we are facing today is that the scientific data gained by landing sharks from tournaments in recent history is not contributing or advancing departmental DFO shark research,” DFO resources manager Carl MacDonald told organizers according to records of an October 2022 meeting on the future of the shark tournaments.

Other options impractical or dangerous

DFO told tournament organizers a recreational fishing licence was an option. But organizers say bringing sharks on board to weigh, or even alongside to measure, makes catch and release too dangerous for people handling the fish

The other requirement — that landed blue sharks must be used for human food — was impractical, said Lockeport Sea Derby president George Benham.

“If we had say 10 or 15 sharks landed, we don’t have a market for 100 per cent of that. It would be too hard to get rid of that many. We just couldn’t do it. I don’t think any of the derbies could do that,” Benham told CBC News.

Tournament take too small to make a difference

Ending the tournaments will likely have little effect on the blue shark population.

In 2022, 60 sharks weighing 5,800 kilograms were landed between the three tournaments.

That represents a tiny fraction of blue sharks caught accidentally by commercial fleets fishing for other species like swordfish and tuna.

A 2017 Marine Stewardship Council assessment of Atlantic Canada’s longline swordfish fleet estimated between 2011 and 2015 an average of 1.5-million kilograms per year of blue sharks were retained or discarded as bycatch.

A dead shark hangs by its tail fin while being weighed on a dock with two men standing in the background.
Lockeport Sea Derby is one of four annual shark derbies in Nova Scotia. (Lockeport Sea Derby/Facebook)

“From a conservation point of view, the number of sharks that tournaments are taking are not a threat to the population.” said Shannon Arnold of the Ecology Action Centre in Halifax.

“We’ve never been opposed to the shark tournaments, especially since they were no longer allowed to land any threatened species.”

Arnold said some catch-and-release shark tournaments in the United States use cellphones to document catches at sea and broadcast it back live to shore.

“There’s a beer garden, whatever. And they have a big screen set up and people are out there like in real time with their cellphones, they can measure it and it’s on video and people are watching it. It’s pretty cool.”

Three people hold down a shark while it's measured.
Scientific team measuring a shark at a 2003 shark derby. (Canadian Shark Research Lab)

Number of sharks taken is down

The number of tournaments and sharks landed in Nova Scotia has steadily fallen over the past decade.

Since 2006, tournaments have been held in eight different ports. That was whittled down to three in recent years. The Riverport derby was last held in 2016 and Louisbourg in 2018.

According to a DFO report, since 2006 a total of 2,964 sharks of all species were taken.

Between 2011 and 2016 tournaments were landing about 300 sharks per year with an average of about 23 boats participating.

“We’ve reduced the number of sharks. Last year, even though we had over 100 participants, only 40 odd sharks were landed,” said Yarmouth’s Gavel.

“We’ve done everything DFO asked.”

 

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Bangladesh crawls back to normalcy after violent clashes that killed nearly 200 people

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DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) — Bangladesh was crawling back to normalcy with limited internet and office hours Wednesday after more than a week of chaos over student protests involving government job quotas. Nearly 200 deaths were reported in just over a week of violence.

Most of the country remained without internet, but thousands of cars were on the streets of the capital after authorities relaxed a curfew for seven hours.

Offices and banks opened for a few hours Wednesday while authorities restored broadband internet in some areas in Dhaka and the second-largest city of Chattogram. Authorities said the curfew would continue in Dhaka and elsewhere until the situation improves.

Since July 16, at least 197 people have been killed in violence, the leading Bengali-language Prothom Alo daily reported Wednesday. The Associated Press could not confirm the death toll from any official sources.

Schools and other educational institutions have remained shut until further notice.

Clashes have occurred since July 15 between the police and mainly student protesters demanding an end to a quota that reserved 30% of government jobs for relatives of veterans who fought in Bangladesh’s war of independence in 1971. The chaos became deadly after the country’s main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party and right wing Jamaat-e-Islami party extended their support to the protests. While violence spread across the country, many government establishments were also under attack in Dhaka.

On Sunday, the Supreme Court ordered that 1971 war veterans’ quota to be cut to 5%. Thus, 93% of civil service jobs will be merit-based while the remaining 2% reserved for members of ethnic minorities as well as transgender and disabled people.

On Tuesday, the government issued a circular, accepting a Supreme Court verdict that reformed the quota system for the government jobs. The government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina welcomed the verdict and said it was ready to implement the verdict.

The protesters took time to respond to Sunday’s verdict, and on Tuesday they said that the Supreme Court verdict and the subsequent government circular were in favor of the protesters, but the government should answer for the bloodshed and deaths involving the protests.

The protests have posed the most serious challenge to Bangladesh’s government since Hasina won a fourth consecutive term in January elections that the main opposition groups boycotted. Universities have been closed, the internet has been shut off and the government has ordered people to stay at home.

Protesters had argued the quota system was discriminatory and benefited supporters of Hasina, whose Awami League party led the independence movement, and wanted it replaced by a merit-based system. Hasina has defended the quota system, saying that veterans who fought, who died and the women who were raped and tortured in 1971 deserve the highest respect regardless of political affiliation.

The Awami League and the BNP have often accused each other of fueling political chaos and violence, most recently ahead of the country’s national election, which was marred by a crackdown on several opposition figures.

On Wednesday, the government relaxed the curfew from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and opened offices and banks from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. while garment factories that export mainly to Western countries also opened. Some major roads in Dhaka were clogged with traffic.

Law Minister Anisul Huq has repeatedly said that the violence became grave as the armed cadres of the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party and right wing Jamaat-e-Islami joined the protests and attacked many government installations including the headquarters of the state-run Bangladesh Television, two toll plazas of a flyover and an expressway, two stations of metro rail in Dhaka. Hundreds government-owned vehicles were also torched.

The headquarters of the main opposition party was raided and sealed off. Police said they recovered sticks and iron rods and locally made weapons from the opposition party’s headquarters in Dhaka.

Bu Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, secretary-general of the main opposition, rejected the allegations and blamed the government for the huge number of deaths.

On Tuesday night, authorities restored only broadband internet service partially in Dhaka and Chattogram after six days, said Zunaid Ahmed Palak, junior minister for Information Communication Technology.

He blamed the protesters, calling them miscreants, for the days of internet outage as a main data center was set on fire and fiber optic connections were cut. He said the internet would gradually be restored across the country, but for now corporate businesses, banks, diplomatic zones and some other areas would get internet.

This comes after a curfew with a shoot-on-sight order was installed days earlier and military personnel could be seen patrolling the capital and other areas. Authorities said about 27,000 soldiers were deployed across the country to assist in the civil administration maintain law and order.

Hasina has been holding a series of meetings with the chiefs of the three wings of the military, top business leaders and political partners when she said the curfew was imposed to restore normalcy. She also blamed the opposition for the violence and said the perpetrators would not be spared.

The U.S. Embassy had described the situation Sunday as volatile and unpredictable, adding that guns, tear gas and other weapons have been used in the vicinity of the embassy. They urged Americans to be vigilant, avoid large crowds and reconsider travel plans.



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Privacy commissioner probing customers’ claims they can’t delete PC Optimum accounts

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GATINEAU, Que. – The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada says it’s opened an investigation into allegations that some Loblaw customers have been unable to delete their PC Optimum accounts.

Spokesman Vito Pilieci said in an email that the office has received several such complaints.

He said the office can’t comment further due to the active investigation.

Loblaw spokeswoman Catherine Thomas said in an email that the company has processes to respond to account deletion requests in a timely manner, and that it will fully co-operate with the privacy commissioner’s office.

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner oversees compliance with the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act as well as the Privacy Act.

According to Loblaw’s 2023 annual report, the PC Optimum loyalty program has more than 16 million active users.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 24, 2024.

Companies in this story: (TSX:L)

The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.



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B.C. wildfire tally surges as firefighters take to air to battle blazes

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The numbers seem ever increasing for British Columbia wildfire statistics, including more than 400 fires, tens of thousands of lightning strikes and at least six homes lost.

The homes were in the Venables Valley, and Colton Davies with the Thompson-Nicola Regional District says they were among 20 buildings destroyed by the Shetland Creek wildfire.

The BC Wildfire Service says recent thunderstorms brought 58,000 lightning strikes, and they expect to see new fire starts from those over the next few days.

More than 80 per cent of current wildfires were started by lightning and about two-thirds of the fires remain out of control.

The wildfire service says local planes and helicopters as well as aircraft from the Yukon, Ontario, Quebec and Alaska have joined the fire fight, with almost 100 airtanker missions from July 18 to 21 dropping 5.4 million litres of suppressant.

People using bodies of water near out-of-control fires such as Shawnigan Lake adjacent to the Old Man Lake wildfire on Vancouver Island have been warned to “keep well away” from aircraft either skimming water or operating otherwise in the area.

The B.C. Ministry of Emergency Management says about 470 properties have been ordered evacuated, while another 3,100 properties are on alert.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 24, 2024.

The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.



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