“Our task must be to free ourselves… by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty.”
“Our task must be to free ourselves… by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty.”
Not since the days of whaling had so many North Atlantic right whales died in one year.
In 2017, 17 of the animals died or were entangled live in fishing gear in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, a large region of ocean that borders all five Canadian Atlantic provinces. At the same time, new research showed the population of 458 individuals was in decline — with the females dwindling faster than males.
Scientists became concerned that the North Atlantic right whale might become functionally extinct — unable to produce new calves — in less than two decades.
But these devastating events produced an unexpected silver lining. Researchers, conservationists, industries, managers, policy-makers and public citizens from Canada and the United States rallied in an unprecedented collaborative response to help reduce risk to the remaining animals.
This effort culminated in April 2018 with the Canadian government unveiling a number of new management measures for the snow crab and lobster fisheries in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence.
Some of these measures — including one large closed area, a shorter fishing season in other areas and closures of certain areas if whales are spotted there — are designed to reduce the number of right whale entanglements this year while allowing fishermen to continue to harvest when the whales are less likely to be present.
Additional measures will also help collect improved data on gear deployments so scientists and managers can understand when and where the animals become entangled.
But why did this happen now?
Typically right whales can be found foraging in the Bay of Fundy and southwest Nova Scotia during summer. But since 2010, right whale sightings in traditional foraging grounds have been low. At the same time, reproduction began to decline, culminating in a record low of zero calves born in 2018.
Scientists have shown that variation in both right whale calving rates and their presence in specific areas are related to changes in their primary food source, the infamous copepod Calanus finmarchicus. Armed with the hypothesis that right whales were hungry and searching elsewhere for food, the community of researchers and conservationists began searching other regions where C. finmarchicus is abundant.
One of those areas in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence proved fruitful, but since right whales had not been observed there often in the past, there were no protections yet in place for them. This exacerbated the events of 2017.
Although we almost never witness the death of a right whale, the ones that have been documented and diagnosed tell us that adult right whales die almost exclusively from ship strikes and fishing gear entanglements. Of the conclusively diagnosed mortalities in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, all were attributed to blunt force trauma from being hit by ships or to entanglement.
When right whales forage in the same area as intensive fishing and commercial shipping activities, the risk to the animals can be exceedingly high. The whales spend up to three quarters of their time at or near the surface looking for food or socializing, putting them at risk of ship strikes and entanglement in slack fishing line floating on the ocean surface.
What’s less well-recognized is how much time right whales spend beneath the waves foraging. Their food undergoes vertical migration in the water column and often collects just above the sea floor. This means right whales may also become entangled underwater in the vertical and ground lines that connect several traps along the sea floor to surface buoys.
The best way to prevent entanglement and ship strikes is to reduce the interaction between right whales and fishing gear or vessels. There are a variety of strategies that have been used in Canada and the U.S. to reduce the risk. However, at this time, there is no indication that total mortality in the population is decreasing.
Within a feeding habitat, right whales tend to use similar areas from year to year because these areas have special environmental conditions that result in a plentiful food supply. The government’s decision to close the area where right whales gathered in 2017 to lobster and snow crab fishing means there will be no interaction where right whale densities are likely to be highest.
It’s also possible that the animals may occupy other regions of the southern Gulf, which is a concern because ships and fishing gear may be more concentrated than usual in other areas.
Because of this, fishing will be permitted in other areas unless a right whale is detected, at which time a mandatory dynamic management zone will be enforced for 15 days.
Historical sightings of right whales in the Gulf of St. Lawrence suggest that the animals have always been present in the area, albeit perhaps in not such noticeably high numbers.
Similarly, historical analyses suggest their food has been present there since at least 1999. But virtually no targeted search effort had been conducted in most areas prior to 2015.
The implication is that the presence of the animals should not be treated as an anomaly. Rather, it is more likely the animals have been using the area unnoticed for some time, and will continue to use the area.
It all means that the fisheries and shipping activities in the region will need to adapt in the long term if we are to have any hope at saving the North Atlantic right whale.
This year, the Class of 2018 will walk across the stage to receive their diplomas and step onto the world’s stage. Graduations mark the ending of a demanding academic journey and signal the beginning of an adventure that awaits. It is a time of celebration and anticipation, of farewells and of new plans.
The Class of 2018 has the profound honour of being the class that welcomes Dalhousie University’s third century.
In January 2018, I received an e-mail from Joyline Makani who shared a video that featured the graduating class of 1931.
Dianne Landry, one of the Archives staff, discovered a 16mm film of the 1931 Convocation while doing some shifting of the collection. We took the original film and sent it to our film preservation service provider, Media Preserve to transfer the film to digital. The digital files just came back from Media Preserve and Creighton Barrett, the Archives’ Digital Archivist has put the file up on our Youtube channel. This 16 mm film was shot by R. Gordon Harris, the “Life Secretary” of the Class of 1931.
1931 marked the opening of the Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto and the year that the Statute of Westminster went into effect, giving Canada full independence in national and international affairs. Those born in 1931 included Mordecai Richler, author, screenwriter and essayist, William Shatner of Star Trek fame and Alice Munro, writer and marvelous storyteller.
This archival treasure captures all the festivity and excitement of the Class of 1931. There is an eagerness to take on new challenges, a willingness to embrace life with exuberance and a hint of audacity. This was the generation that would experience the economics of the 1930’s, WWII, and the massive technological advances that sent us into space. Their voices may no longer be with us, but their hopes and efforts are embedded in the fabric of our nation, and in the spirit of a new generation ready to make their voices heard.
From all of us at CEGE Connection, congratulations to the Class of 2018. We know that whatever you do, you will be remarkable.
“To reach a port we must sail, sometimes with the wind, and sometimes against it. But we must not drift or lie at anchor.”
Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.
Most consumers are concerned about the cost of food. We constantly look for bargains and the food industry knows it.
According to a recent survey by Dalhousie University, more than 60 per cent of all Canadian consumers consider price as one of the top three decision criteria when grocery shopping. Price is key, no matter what. Grocers play around with prices to keep all of us on our toes.
Pricing in the food processing sector is intricate. Ingredients, energy costs and wages are among the factors that weigh heavily on food manufacturers as they try to cultivate relationships with grocers and retain market shares.
For decades, to keep price points low, the shrinking package strategy has been employed by the food industry — known as shrinkflation, it’s the process of items shrinking in size or quantity while their prices remain the same or increase.
Everything is getting smaller, whether it’s cartons of ice cream, bags of chips, cookies, chocolate bars or boxes of pasta. There have been several media stories on this issue in recent years.
All over the world, food packages are shrinking. A recent U.K. study suggests there are almost 3,000 food products that can be found in a typical grocery store that have shrunk since 2012. This came at a period of time when annual food inflation hit a whopping six per cent. And so people were paying more for less and the food industry was accused of gouging consumers.
Similar numbers are coming out of the U.S. market. Many American food manufacturers have also admitted to shrinking packages to maintain prices at a competitive level. Many of these products enter the Canadian market. Based on what’s going on in the U.S. and Europe, we could estimate that anywhere between 15 to 20 per cent of all packaged food products have shrunk in the last five years, if not more.
Food companies have found a way to defend margins, largely without upsetting anyone.
Shrinkflation is almost the norm these days, but consumers are beginning to find it irritating. Yet food companies are not really misleading the public. Weight and volume information can easily be found on any labelled package. Habits make us believe we are purchasing the same thing as we zoom in on the one constant that motivates our behaviour when shopping: Price.
When costs rise in food manufacturing, a company has basically three options: Raise the price, make smaller packages or change the ingredients. Given our competitive food industry, hiking prices can be challenging. Since early 2018, prices in food stores have dropped because of higher competition.
Yet changing ingredients can be risky. For 30 years, before the 2008 bump in commodity prices when food was considered an afterthought compared to today, companies were egregiously reformulating food products. This was at a time when taste and the quality of ingredients were not on the radar.
Some food manufacturers have paid the ultimate price for changing the taste of certain products just to save a few pennies. The so-called New Coke is a classic example of a misfire. And today, with social media, companies are one poor decision away from seeing an entire product line vanish.
The only viable option, really, is to downsize. With the arrival of many non-food investment firms and conglomerates that value food as much as bolts, tires or buildings, recalibrating ingredients and changing a package is almost second nature.
3G Capital, the Brazilian giant which gobbled up Heinz-Kraft, Burger King and Tim Horton’s in recent years under its holding company, Restaurant Brands International, is one good example. Most of these new players in the food space are not astute about the nuances of food products. They just look at the numbers knowing consumers are out there looking for the best price.
Whether or not we want to admit it, as food consumers, we value quantities for the lowest price. It’s challenging to get out of this way of thinking.
But there could be an opportunity for manufacturers looking at increased costs. Instead of downsizing products and hoping no one notices, emphasizing its superior taste and original package size could become a selling point.
Studies show that consumers who remember how good a product tastes are willing to pay more for less if given no other choice. Food manufacturers should try selling flavour over quantity.
Showing a more transparent approach to packaging, or emphasizing quality could let consumers appreciate that things do get complicated out there and some adjustments are required. But we all know that won’t happen.
It’s unclear how shrinkflation is captured by the StatsCan consumer price index. Certain quantities are taken into account by the index, but there’s no explanation on how data collection is adjusted as quantities change rapidly.
Shrinking package sizes could contribute to food inflation in a subtle way. In some cases, quantities have been reduced by 15 per cent in three years. By compounding real inflation, food prices may have gone up by more than six per cent in many cases, when the reported food inflation rate was anywhere between 1.5 to two per cent.
In the end, consumers can be outraged and condemn the practice of shrinking food products. But when you really think about it, food companies are really delivering what consumers are asking for — low prices.
“My research interests emerged from my professional experience and focus on understanding the ways in which the modern workplace is being transformed through innovative information and knowledge management practices, facilitated by technology and increased collaboration.”
Dr. Sandra Toze, Director, School of Information Management, Dalhousie University
A few weeks ago, I joined Dr. Sandra Toze at the 2018 ARMA Canada Conference held in Vancouver. This was Dr. Toze’s and my first face-to-face meeting and my first introduction to ARMA Canada, an organization dedicated to providing professionals with the research, tools, and training required to manage records and information within an established information governance framework. After two days of stimulating dialogue, I came away with a renewed appreciation of where information has taken us in our current reality.
Dr. Toze is involved in cutting-edge research that will provide direction on how society can harness and use the power of information. We live in a world that has the technological resources and capacity to amass data at an exponential rate. Traditional work and career pathways have been transformed by virtual teams, collaboration and mobility. New skill sets are required, specifically in the areas of information management and governance.
CEGE Connection is pleased to announce that Dr. Toze has graciously agreed to a series of interviews that highlight her research goals and insights concerning the potential of our digital age. We invite you to join this important conversation.
Editor and Blog Coordinator,
Dr. Sandra Toze:
Advances in technology have transformed the way in which we view information management. My first experience in the information management arena came when I worked as a librarian in financial services, an industry which generates vast quantities of information and massive data sets. This was at a time when there were no easy or intuitive interface mechanisms. With a background in history and politics, my exposure to data was limited. I quickly learned that working with data was different than working with information, you needed to understand how the data was collected and assessed. The “data” about data was critical.
Today, I am looking at how changes in the information landscape including collaboration, big and open data affect what we know about human information interactions. This is an evolving area of exploration. How do people deal with data? How do digital changes including social, mobile, analytics, cloud and automation affect how we find, interact and use information to solve problems, and to learn.
When I talk about data, I am talking about collection of numbers that we can manipulate statistically. When you see numbers on a spreadsheet, that is only part of the story. The background story relates to how the data was collected? What do these numbers represent? These are critical factors that will lead to a robust understanding of what we can do with that data. All of this is not necessarily intuitive. How do we know with certainty that the collected data is accurate and without bias?
I look forward to sharing my research in the coming series of interviews with CEGE Connection. Digital technologies are transforming the structures of society: governments, business, educational institutions, entertainment, travel. Without question, the governance of information and the need for advanced information skills are essential to realize the potential of this field of enquiry.
Dr. Sandra Toze
Director, School of Information Management
On July 9, 1993, the Parliament of Canada passed the Nunavut Act which established the territory of Nunavut, which would come to realization sometime in the future. On April 1, 1999, Nunavut became a legally distinct territory. Today, we celebrate Nunavut Day 2018.
Dalhousie and Nunavut have enjoyed close ties beginning with Dr. Robert Moody who was Deputy Minister of Education in the Government of Nunavut. As well, Dalhousie’s Faculty of Management, a member of a tripartite consortium with the Institute on Governance and PGF Consultants, is involved in two projects with the Government of Nunavut. The objectives of these projects are to enhance the leadership and policy formulation capacity of the Government of Nunavut.
Dr. Vivian Howard recently travelled to Rankin Inlet where she met with the participants in the “Emerging Leaders” certificate program to discuss pathways into the Centre for Executive and Graduate Education (CEGE) programs.
Dr. Vivian Howard:
There was significant interest in the MPAM, MIM, and MBA options. I was honoured to join in the graduation ceremony, where 21 Government of Nunavut employees, all Inuit, received their certificates. Another highpoint of my visit was participating in the signing of the amended Memorandum of Understanding between Dalhousie and the Government of Nunavut. Dalhousie has a long history of involvement with Nunavut. I am proud of what has been accomplished and look forward to future partnerships and collaborative opportunities.
Congratulations to the cohort of graduates!
“The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for destruction.”
Retail food prices are not moving much these days. They are barely higher than last year, with a modest increase of 0.5 per cent.
In fact, according to Statistics Canada, prices dropped over all by 0.7 per cent over the winter months. South of the border, U.S. grocers are dealing with the same issue. Since our economy has some momentum, you would expect food retail prices to inch higher. But they are not moving, and for several reasons.
Grocers will always pick the right time to raise prices. Unemployment is near historic lows, consumer confidence is relatively high and inflation is inching upward — normally, these are perfect market conditions. Not so at the moment.
For one thing, both Walmart and Amazon are at war trying to attract customer loyalty through online strategies. Walmart’s online food sales were disappointing in the last quarter, but sales are growing nonetheless.
And generic brands are becoming increasingly popular as consumers trade down. Brands are becoming less important to a growing number of consumers, so trading down has become less embarrassing and more of a statement consumers want to make while shopping.
Loyalty — the most powerful tool a grocer needs to increase sales — is almost non-existent nowadays. The power has now firmly shifted into the hands of consumers, and grocers know it. With interesting tweaks to their strategy, profits are still there, but market shares are not.
For the past few years, grocers have been cutting costs and passing the savings onto consumers, all the while hoping that the perfect inflationary environment would return so that they could raise prices again. The return of food inflation was exactly what the grocery industry was hoping for, but so far, results have been disappointing.
What they did not expect was to lose the ability to increase retail prices. With higher general inflation, costs are increasing and grocers are now getting hit in more ways than one.
Grocers can try to justify their poor financial performance, citing higher minimum wages and how much pressure they are under, but top-line growth revenues are painfully idle for most of them. All grocers are moving aggressively on their online strategy, and all are also looking at home delivery, as soon as possible.
In many markets — Toronto, Guelph, Ont., Halifax, Vancouver, among others — the number of stores is increasing. There are almost 39,000 food and beverage stores in Canada, which is up more than five per cent from about two years ago.
It seems some grocers are remaining in this funk of building new stores just for the sake of it. Bricks-and-mortar stores may remain a sign of business success from the perspective of some executives, but this just isn’t true anymore.
Pressures are also coming from the online market, as more small- and medium-sized companies are chipping away at market shares in some specific food categories. It’s not just Amazon, but a portfolio of intriguing small companies using virtual platforms to brand and commercialize high-value products that cannot be found elsewhere, like Bonduelle or Naak.
Innovation is always seen as a logical path to growth in the grocery business, but how we define innovation in food is also changing.
Many innovative products are becoming known in Canada, like the cricket-protein bars sold by Naak, but most are not sold by major grocers. They are sold online or through independent shops.
This is another major problem that grocers in this country will need to fix and quickly. If grocers’ capacity to increase revenues is hampered by more competition, the consequences of these pressures will be shared with food processors and others in the supply chain. To make matters worse, relationships within the food value chain have not been great in recent years.
Despite the food retailing woes we are seeing in North America, food services is a different story entirely.
Prices have gone up by more than four per cent since the beginning of the year, and the sector is not showing signs of slowing down.
The convergence between retailing and service will be a definite attraction for a food-retailing sector desperate for growth.
The grocery sector, however, is facing swift changes in consumer preferences as customers clamour for different products and services. Consequently, the number of food stores we have in Canada is likely not sustainable. Don’t be surprised to increasingly hear about more grocery stores closing in months to come.
Our home and native land!
True patriot love in all thy sons command.
Car ton bras sait porter l’épée,
Il sait porter la croix!
Ton histoire est une épopée
Des plus brillants exploits.
God keep our land glorious and free!
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
A FYI Moment: The Landscape of Grand Pré became Canada’s 16th World Heritage Site, inscribed by UNESCO in 2012.