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More than a dozen B.C. chinook salmon populations in decline, scientists say

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Nearly half of southern British Columbia’s chinook salmon populations are in decline, according to a science committee that monitors the health of wildlife populations.

The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) reported Monday that of 16 chinook populations studied, eight are endangered, four are threatened and one is considered of special concern.

Only one, located in British Columbia’s Thompson River, is considered stable. The condition of two populations is unknown. Southern B.C. has 28 chinook populations.

Endangered is the committee’s most serious ranking, suggesting the population is in danger of being wiped out.

“There are some where there is thought to be fewer than 200 fish still remaining,” said committee member and fisheries biologist John Neilson.

“At that level, there would be concern about those stocks. That’s why we’re sounding the alarm.”

Warming waters

Chinook salmon are both a major fishery in British Columbia and central to the lives and culture of Indigenous people. Neilson said the new assessment is the most comprehensive the committee has ever done on the fish.

“From other studies and general knowledge on the state of salmon in B.C., there’s a lot of concern,” Neilson said. “These are populations that are at the high end of needing some attention.”

Scientists believe the problem occurs during the part of their lives the salmon spend in the ocean.

Some believe growing numbers of seals and sea lions, which feed on the fish, are behind the declines.

Others say the warming and acidifying ocean is starting to affect the food web the salmon depend on.

“It’s a complex story,” said Neilson.

Some fishermen suspect sea lions are contributing to the decline of Pacific fish stocks, including chinook and herring, pictured here. (Nic Amaya/CBC)

COSEWIC chair and Simon Fraser University fisheries biologist John Reynolds said he was surprised to see just how badly the populations were doing.

“In general, salmon have been having a struggle lately on the West Coast,” Reynolds said.

Reynolds blamed the decline on climate change, which he said is causing warmer temperatures in the ocean and rivers.

“When they’re returning to spawn, if the temperature starts to go up toward the 19 to 20 C mark, the salmon can simply die en route to the spawning grounds,” he said.

Government action

Neilson said it’s time the federal government use its power to protect the fish and its habitat, he added.

“Our suggestion is that government act quickly,” he said.

The Species At Risk Act allows the federal government to issue emergency protection orders which allow Ottawa to control activity in critical habitat normally governed by the provinces.

The federal government has used the power twice before for the western chorus frog and the sage grouse.

Federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna said she hadn’t yet seen the assessment but would follow up on its concerns.

“We understand that it is critically important to protect and conserve our native wildlife. We need to fulfil our obligations under the Species At Risk Act.”

She said some measures have already been taken to protect and rebuild chinook salmon stocks.

Only one population of chinook salmon assessed, located in the Thompson River, is considered stable. (Andrew Yeh)

Included among the 36 species the committee assessed were polar bears, which remain a species of special concern.

It also looked at the black ash tree, a common urban tree in civic parks in Toronto, Montreal, and Ottawa. It found that over the past 20 years, an invasive species called the emerald ash borer has killed about two billion ash trees in the Great Lakes Region.

The black ash is now considered threatened, the committee found.

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

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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

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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

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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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