On campus
In the harbour


1. Innovation watch

The sea cucumber, a possible aphrodisiac, is getting Nova Scotians excited.
The sea cucumber, an alleged aphrodisiac, is getting Nova Scotians excited.

ACOA is extending a $500,000 loan to Ocean Pride Fisheries to develop products from sea cucumbers, reports the CBC:

A relation of sea urchins and starfish, sea cucumbers are caught by dragging a narrow roll bar, which skips along the ocean floor.

The company has an enterprise allocation quota for 771,100 kilograms caught off the coast of Nova Scotia. It currently employs about 70 people on a seasonal basis and will add another 25, according to [Ocean Pride president Jules] Leblanc.

West Nova MP Colin Fraser made the funding announcement Thursday afternoon at the Wedgeport Sport Tuna Fishing Museum. The newly elected Liberal noted that Ocean Pride started as a herring processor, moved to dogfish then to sea cucumbers.

“This is a company that innovates and adapts,” Fraser told CBC News. “This is going to be the way of the future in creating economic growth in Atlantic Canada.”

Wait minute…. what happened to the herring? Oh, this:

The South West Nova herring fishery was once a major industry in the Yarmouth region — it kept five, 1,500-tonne-a-day reduction plants in the area operating, as well as stocked a number of factory freezer trawlers from the defunct U.S.S.R., which paid a regular call each summer to the area.

At that time, during the 1970s, there were 49 herring purse seiners taking part in the fishery — some of them from as far away as British Columbia.

The west coasters were here because their herring fishery had collapsed due to overfishing.

The same thing later happened in South West Nova Scotia.

Massive tonnages destined for those reduction plants and then a shift to the roe market, which rendered half of the catch useless, led to the demise of herring spawning grounds like Trinity Ledge and German Banks. The reduction plants and seiners literally disappeared.

But that couldn’t possibly happen to sea cucumbers. Right?

Regardless, much of the sea cucumber industry seems to be built around the creature’s use as a supposed aphrodisiac:

A distant relative of sea urchin, sea cucumber is not a vegetable at all, but a strange little echinoderm with a phallic shape. Sea cucumber is found around the world, but is most popular in Asia where the Chinese, Malaysians, Koreans and Indonesians consider its flesh a delicacy.

The Chinese, on the other hand, seem to love their phalluses and eat them, too. The Chinese are among the world’s biggest consumers of sea cucumber and use it to treat high blood pressure and joint pain as well as low libido. (The Chinese name for sea cucumber is hai shen, translating roughly into “sea ginseng.”) Throughout Indonesia, sea cucumber is considered to have many healing uses. Because the sea cucumber is one of the earth’s oldest living creatures (it has existed for over 500 million years), the slug of the sea has developed an extraordinary immune system – and one that, surprisingly, resembles that of humans. Early studies in the 1980’s and 1990’s examined a potential for sea cucumber extracts to speed the healing of wounds and even reduce scarring, aid in the treatment of HIV and potentially slow the growth of cancer. As a homeopathic treatment, sea cucumber is often dried and sold in capsule form. In many parts of the world, these pills are marketed as a natural alternative to the drug Viagra. [emphasis added]

And that seems to be Ocean Pride’s target audience. As the CBC explains:

Ocean Pride Fisheries Ltd. says it will use the $500,000 to buy new equipment to eliminate waste and create so-called nutraceuticals from the bottom-dwelling invertebrates caught off the coast of Nova Scotia.

Nutraceuticals are components of food used for medicinal purposes. 

“One product is an oil, there is another is dried. We’ll have multiple products from this,” said company president Jules LeBlanc.

Sea cucumbers are sold as a health food, primarily in Hong Kong, mainland China and Korea.

Like “innovation,” “nutraceutical” is a bullshit term meaning whatever you want it to mean, but it is often used as an euphemism for “aphrodisiac.”

Er, not to be Debbie Downer here, but should the Canadian government really be in the business of producing Chinese boners?

We’ve been down the government-backed quack homeopathic medical product road before, and it didn’t end well.

2. Peggys Cove


A government press release yesterday announced:

One of Nova Scotia’s iconic and most visited landmarks will be safer as a result of improvements that will be made at Peggy’s Cove.

Based on recommendations made by a task team of members from the community and local organizations, government will make the following improvements:
— new and enhanced safety signs will be installed in the coming weeks
— a video warning message will be played at the visitor information centre
— tourism staff will improve communications with visitors and tour operators
— interpretive panels will be installed describing the strength of the ocean
— a social media safety campaign at the start of this tourism season

The Sou’Wester Restaurant will also install rock barriers around the parking lot to guide visitors towards warning signs.

Business Minister Mark Furey told the Canadian Press the changes will cost about $25,000.

The trick is balancing taste and safety. We don’t want to overrun the place with fences and warning signs, but at the same time we should take reasonable steps to alert people of the danger. The changes announced yesterday seem reasonable, but I think that the actual number of people killed on the rocks should be part of the new signage, to drive the message home.

3. Port of Sydney

“The Port of Sydney Development Corp.’s finances continue to raise questions,” reports Tom Ayers for Local Xpress:

The financial statements were presented to the public at the port’s inaugural annual general meeting on March 12, at which time CEO Marlene Usher said the port “has been self-sustainable,” and presented documents for the first 11 months of operation showing the port had an estimated fiscal year-end surplus of about $20,000 on a $1.6-million annual budget.

However, the documents also show Usher’s $200,000 salary is subsidized with an annual injection of $100,000 from the Cape Breton Regional Municipality. The other half is paid by the federal Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, where she was employed before taking a three-year secondment to the port.

The documents also show the port has not paid back about $1.5 million in lease fees it owes the regional municipality for the use of the Joan Harriss Cruise Pavilion, which is owned by CBRM. That amount is expected to climb to $1.9 million by the end of the next fiscal year.

Usher said at the annual general meeting that the port plans to pay back the lease fees over a 10-year period starting in 2018, with no interest charges, but did not say what new revenue stream could be expected to cover those fees.

With a small $20,000 surplus this year, it’s difficult to see how the port can afford to pay the back rent.

And with the CEO’s salary subsidized on an annual basis and the operation currently carrying a $1.5-million – and climbing – liability for lease fees, it also calls into question Usher’s use of the term “self-sustainable.”

The Port of Sydney is Cape Breton’s counterpart to the Halifax Convention Centre: a financial wreckage in the making, but the town mucky mucks can make it sound just plausible enough to hoodwink the public while the mucky mucks rake in the grift.

4. McNeil Says Nova Scotia’s Film Future is Blindingly Bright

Examiner contributor Sue Donem has the latest news on the provincial film industry:

Premier Stephen McNeil was asked to speak about the future of Nova Scotia’s film industry at the Nova Scotia Innovative Vision & Bold Craft Dinner Charcuterie Board Meeting last night. “It’s like a Lite Brite,” said McNeil, “but before you put the picture thing on it. That’s how bright it is. It’s blindingly bright. I had a Lite Brite once.”

YouTube video

Nova Scotia’s film industry took a huge hit, after the film tax credit changes were implemented in July of 2015.

Asked how his government plans to help the few remaining media production workers left in Nova Scotia, McNeil suggested that they work for a bank. “Banks are nice because they have money in them,” stated McNeil. The Premier was reminded that banks tend to pay their starting tellers barely over minimum wage in Nova Scotia. “I think that’s very something,” said McNeil.

Questions concerning the Nova Scotia Film and Television and Video and Business and Marketing Incentive Fund’s (NSFTVBMIF) ability to revive the film industry were met with great enthusiasm by McNeil, stating, “I really love the new name. It’s longer than the old name, and I think that says a lot for innovation. The film industry here is very creative, and I have every faith that they will come up with some kind of way to make movies with smart phones and other cutting-edge disruptive technology. They are true visionaries who envision a lot of visible things. Lite Brite started as an idea, and now it’s more than just a concept because it’s bright. And that’s the future of film in Nova Scotia.”

YouTube video

McNeil unveiled the marketing video for NSFTVBMIF. Although Bruce Springsteen wrote the song, no one quite delivers it like McNeil’s “favourite movie star,” Manfred Mann.  The Premier has offered to send a Lite Brite to anyone who can choose the correct lyric to the second line of the chorus below:

  • Wrapped up like a douche, a new aroma in the night
  • Wrap up all the douches in the morning and the night
  • Revved up like a deuce, another runner in the night
  • Wrap up like a douche and go to Rona in the night


1. Rural libraries

Rural libraries are being decimated, says Robert Devet:

Budget pressures are bringing public libraries in rural Nova Scotia to their knees. Staff hours are reduced, entire programs are eliminated, and branches are cutting back on opening hours.

Things can’t possibly get much worse, library workers tell the Nova Scotia Advocate.

“We will have to cut hours,” says Eric Stackhouse, chief librarian for the Pictou-Antigonish Regional Library. Which in turn will cause a lot of part time staff to lose their benefits, because of the way the insurer contract is structured.

The situation is even more dire for the Eastern Counties Regional Library, serving Guysborough, Inverness and Richmond Counties.

“This year we’ve downsized positions, we cut our on-line reference service, our books by mail service, we’ve eliminated one full time cataloguing position at headquarters,” chief librarian Laura Emery tells the Nova Scotia Advocate.

“All in preparation of yet another year of zero funding increases,” she adds. “We are literally at the lowest we can go. We are there now. We are done. Next thing to go is books.”

2. Senate

“After trying for almost 150 years, we should probably give up looking for a Senate that makes sense,” writes Graham Steele. “But surely Nova Scotia can still hope for a Senate that makes a difference, and the prime minister’s early moves are promising.”

3. Cranky letter of the day

To the Cape Breton Post:

Time after time large companies come to Cape Breton and wind up closing shop.

Now we have Saputo Inc. closing its dairy production facility in Sydney, and with it goes 100 jobs.

Losing that amount of jobs may have little effect on a larger city like Halifax but it certainly will hurt our economy.

I say its time to turn the page on businesses that move elsewhere and boycott their products.

Robert Young, Sydney


No public meetings.

On Campus

Thesis defence, Engineering (11:30am, Room 429/430, Goldberg Computer Science Building) — PhD candidate Daya Nhuchhen will defend his thesis, “Studies on Advance Means of Biomass Torrefaction.”

Thesis defence, Math (2pm, Room 3107, Mona Campbell Building) — PhD candidate Elham Roshanbin will defend her thesis, “Burning a Graph as a Model for the Spread of Social Contagion.”

Early English Caribbean (3:30pm, Marion McCain Building, room 1170) — Justin Roberts will speak on “A Swarm of People: Race, Social Control and Population Management in the Early English Caribbean.”

In the harbour

The seas around Nova Scotia, 9am Friday. Map:
The seas around Nova Scotia, 9am Friday. Map:

Dinkeldiep, general cargo, Saint-Pierre to Pier 42 at 8:20am, then sails back to Saint-Pierre at 4:30pm
John J. Carrick, tank barge, parts unknown (to me) to MacAsphalt at 9:30am
Elka Elefsis, oil tanker, Houston to Bedford Basin anchorage at 4:30pm

East Coast sails from Imperial Oil to sea at 3pm
Oceanex Connaigra sails from Pier 42 to sea at 8pm




Tim Bousquet is the editor and publisher of the Halifax Examiner. Twitter @Tim_Bousquet Mastodon

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  1. Sue Donem – hope she contirutes again – say next April 1? Thanks for adding to the laughs today.

  2. Very sad to hear about the rural libraries. Libraries are important and need to be supported.

    Also, the third lyric is correct. I want my Lite Brite!

  3. It’s really getting painful to watch our province and our country ignore cold hard facts when it comes to over-harvesting from our oceans. The technique they’re talking about for harvesting sea cucumbers (some junk merrily “skipping” across the sea floor) is the same one that obliterates all the fish nurseries (coral, sponges, etc.) which is a big part of why fish stocks won’t recover. This backwards province can’t get ahead of itself enough to let the fish come back. Instead, it continues to bow down to companies like these, dumping dollar after dollar into the propagation of what is essentially a total clear cut to the 200-mile border with international waters. Does nobody in government know any of this?

  4. Apologies as I am feeling particularly grump this morning, but enough with the god damned corporate giveaways! It is nauseating. Taxes are sold to us on the premise of providing decent roads and healthcare. We of course know the money cannot be going there, but fortunately this article enlightens us:

    Fucking. Sea. Cucumbers.

    1. Well, it’s not quite a giveaway. It is a loan, and one would hope that the province has assets it can recover should this go sour. And we probably did not secure such an agreement.

      But *innovative* is not how I would describe getting back into the snake oil business. Maybe’s it is a disruptive technology, or some other half-baked snowjob, obscured by yet another string of incoherent grammar:

      ‘globally actualize user friendly methods of boner empowerment’

      Whoever posted that corporate BS generator here the other day deserves a free t-shirt.

    2. If this is such a great business then why wouldn’t a bank loan them the money? Why taxpayer risk?

  5. “But surely Nova Scotia can still hope for a Senate that makes a difference…”, I like the optimism.

    1. There have been times in the past when Senators have done excellent work and that could happen again. Calvin Ruck to me is the model of what a Senator can be. There are some there now whose only claim to fame is that they were Conservative fund raisers and absolutely nothing more.

  6. “…sea cucumbers are caught by dragging a narrow roll bar, which skips along the ocean floor.”

    And causing what other destruction in the process? I’m not necessarily opposed to making a dollar by selling quack remedies to those consenting adults willing to pay them for them, but I’d like to hear more about this method of fishing and what effect it may have on other species.

    1. Maybe we need to launch a media campaign to convince the Chinese that powdered developers are actually an aphrodisiac – they seem to produce erections that stick around for years after they are wanted.

      Trawling the bottom is an incredibly destructive form of fishing because it destroys benthic habitat that takes decades to recover. The bottom of the ocean is in most places, not just a flat jumble of sand and rocks – unless fishing equipment has been trawled over it repeatedly.

    2. So dragging a bar along the bottom of the ocean is now deemed an “innovation”?

      John Risley would be soooo proud.