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Welcome to the great whites north

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From head to tail fin, Maeva Giraudo noticed that the shark’s wet body was smooth and firm like leather. She could feel the animal’s size and strength. Rubbed the other way, however, the fish felt surprisingly rough, like sandpaper. It was Thanksgiving weekend, and she was meeting Luna off the shore of Lunenburg, N.S., the town that inspired the great white’s name.

Giraudo, a research scientist with Environment and Climate Change Canada, has always admired sharks. She considers them the lions of the sea. For years, she has followed the work of Ocearch, a non-profit organization known for tagging and tracking the movements of these apex predators and giving them Twitter profiles, some of which have thousands of followers. When she learned the group’s team of scientists and fishermen was planning an expedition to Nova Scotia, she knew she had to be there.

For a few days in October, Giraudo took an unpaid holiday to jump aboard the MV Ocearch, a former crabbing vessel now used to catch and release sharks. Luna was reeled in by a small fishing boat known as the Contender, which uses a baited, non-harmful circle hook to catch sharks and guide them toward the Ocearch vessel, where a platform submerged under the sea hoists them out of the North Atlantic Ocean. A wet towel was immediately thrown over Luna’s eyes, while a hose pumped salt water into her mouth and gills. Then a crew of scientists and researchers went to work.

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Luna was impressive. She measured nearly five metres long and 950 kg, one of the largest Ocearch has ever found. “I can’t believe how beautiful they are,” Giraudo says. Canadian waters along the country’s east coast may not be known for an abundance of sharks, but it appears to be a favourite destination for some like Luna. Ocearch followed the tracks of Hilton, a great white shark caught in 2017 near Hilton Head Island, S.C., who had been spending time in Nova Scotia. The sharks each have a tag on their dorsal fin that sends a location each time it pokes above the surface.

“We speculated that something was happening in Nova Scotia, perhaps mating,” says Bob Hueter, Ocearch’s chief science adviser. “It would be a critical piece of the puzzle.” The world knows little, after all, about great white sharks. Canada deems them “at risk,” yet there’s no estimate of population size in the country’s waters. “They spend most of their time hidden from us,” Hueter says. But the work being done here will help to begin filling in the blanks. And in the coming months, scientists expect to get a much clearer picture about what great whites are doing in Canadians waters.

Ocearch arrived in Nova Scotia hopeful they would find at least one shark. Over three weeks, the group caught and tagged seven. “It was beyond our wildest expectations,” says Chris Fischer, the founder and expedition leader of Ocearch. Fischer was the star of reality television shows like Shark Men and Shark Wranglers before shifting his attention to ocean conservation. This reality—along with Ocearch’s social media presence and a website that shows where their sharks are in real time—has drawn criticism from some in the scientific community.

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Hueter, a shark researcher of more than 40 years, says the time for “waiting for that [research] paper to appear on a bookshelf in a dusty library is dead and gone.” He notes that scientists who work with Ocearch must agree to publish their results within two years. “We feel the clock ticking,” he says, adding that their goal remains the same as that of traditional researchers: undo the damage done to the oceans and help rebuild shark populations.

After a shark is caught, a handful of scientists step onto the platform to take blood, muscle and genetic samples—tests that reveal the animal’s reproductive hormones, stress levels, contaminants and diet. They measure length and girth, and attach acoustic and satellite tags. They perform ultrasound tests on females. Then, after no more than 15 minutes, the shark is set free. “It’s like watching a pit crew during a car race,” says Hueter.

The samples from the Nova Scotia expedition were taken for 15 research projects for 19 different institutions. Hueter ranks the trip as one of the most gratifying of his career, noting that Ocearch plans to return next year.

Giraudo thought she was just there to observe, but quickly found herself taking samples. Out of the great whites Ocearch tagged, Luna is the only one still in Nova Scotia; the others have headed for warmer waters. Luna was poking around the Bay of Fundy at the time of writing. Giraudo checks up on her regularly and guesses she’s enjoying the seals. “Luna’s a big fish,” she says. “Maybe she just likes it over there.” Will Luna be back next year? The scientists, and the great white’s 2,500 followers, will be watching.

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Ottawa unveils funding for poultry and egg farmers hurt by free-trade deals

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Canadian egg and poultry farmers who’ve lost domestic market share due to two recent free-trade agreements will soon have access to $691 million in federal cash, Canada’s agriculture minister announced Saturday.

Marie-Claude Bibeau shared details of the long-awaited funds in a virtual news conference.

“Today we position our young farmers for growth and success tomorrow,” she said.

The money follows a previously announced $1.75 billion for the dairy sector linked to free-trade deals with Europe and countries on the Pacific Rim, one that came into effect in 2017 and the other in 2018.

The dairy sector funds were to flow over eight years, and the first $345 million payment was sent out last year.

But on Saturday, Bibeau announced a schedule for the remaining payments that will see the money flow over three years — beginning with $468 million in 2020-21, $469 million in 2021-22 and $468 million in 2022-23.

Bibeau said the most recently announced funds for dairy farmers amount to an average farm of 80 cows receiving a direct payment of $38,000 in the first year.

Payments based on formulas

David Wiens, vice-president of the Dairy Farmers of Canada, said the money will help farms make investments for the future.

“I think particularly for the younger farmers who have really struggled since these agreements have been ratified, they can actually now see opportunities, how they can continue to make those investments on the farm so that they can continue on,” he said.

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Employee of Ottawa Metro store tests positive for COVID-19

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Metro says an employee of its grocery store on Beechwood Avenue in Ottawa has tested positive for COVID-19.

The company says the employee’s positive test result was reported on Nov. 25. The employee had last been at work at the Metro at 50 Beechwood Ave. on Nov. 19.

Earlier this month, Metro reported several cases of COVID-19 at its warehouse on Old Innes Road.

Positive test results were reported on Nov. 2, Nov. 6, Nov. 11, and Nov. 19. The first two employees worked at the produce warehouse at 1184 Old Innes Rd. The other two worked at the distribution centre at the same address.

Metro lists cases of COVID-19 in employees of its stores and warehouses on its website

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Tinseltown: Where 50-year-old ‘tough guys’ become youngsters again

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Audy Czigler wears glitter like a Pennsylvania miner wears coal dust. It’s on his face and hands, in his hair and on his clothing. It’s an occupational hazard that he says he just can’t get rid of.

And when he’s sifting through job applications from people wanting to work at his Tinseltown Christmas Emporium on Somerset Street W. in Hintonburg, the glitter is a consideration. For he’s not looking for people who can simply endure it; no, he’s screening for people who revel and carouse in glitter, for those for whom the 10,000th playing of I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus is as refreshing as the first, for those who believe that the 12 days of Christmas last 365 days a year. The believers.

Sure, he has heard the voices of skeptical passersby on the sidewalk outside his shop, especially in the summer months when visions of sugarplums have receded from many people’s minds.

“I hear them out there a few times a day,” he says, “wondering how a Christmas store can possibly survive year-round.

“I want to go out and tell them,” he adds, but his voice trails off as a customer approaches and asks about an ornament she saw there recently, of a red cardinal in a white heart. Where is it?

There’s scant room for sidewalk skeptics now, crowded out by the dozens of shoppers who, since October, have regularly lined up outside the store, patiently biding their time (and flocks) as pandemic-induced regulations limit the shop to 18 customers at a time.

Once inside, visitors will be forgiven for not first noticing the glitter, or even the rendition of Baby, It’s Cold Outside playing on the speakers. For there’s no specific “first thing” you notice. The first thing you notice is EVERYTHING — a floor-to-ceiling cornucopia of festivity, reminiscent perhaps of how the blind man in the Gospel of John may have felt when Jesus rubbed spit and mud in his eyes and gave him sight for the first time.

https://ottawacitizen.com/news/local-news/tinseltown-where-50-year-old-tough-guys-become-youngsters-again

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