Shockingly good Nova Scotia conservation brew strikes again

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Shockingly good Nova Scotia conservation brew strikes again

Last year, Cape Breton craft brewer Big Spruce Brewing and Dalhousie-based Ocean Tracking Network (OTN) launched a seasonal IPA “with bite,” that united ocean enthusiasts and beer aficionados alike—and raised funds for research and conservation.

Left to right: the new edition of Tag! You’re It! pictured next to last year’s edition of the brew (Photo: Jon Pye)

For each can of Tag! You’re It! beer purchased at specialty stores by thirsty Maritimers last summer, Big Spruce donated 50 cents to ocean research, conservation and education initiatives based in Nova Scotia. The beer raised over $11,500 for groups including the Marine Animal Response Society (MARS), and Sharks of the Atlantic Research and Conservation Centre (ShARCC). 

The brew’s moniker, Tag! You’re It!, comes from a 2014 episode of the Rick Mercer Report when Mercer accompanied an OTN shark research expedition to electronically-tag and release blue sharks for tracking and conservation–one of OTN’s many tracking studies across Canada. Mercer ended the segment with a cheeky, “Tag, You’re It!”. The catchphrase would percolate in the mind of Big Spruce owner Jeremy White long after the concept and logo for the conservation-oriented beer were developed.

“We bounced around a few ideas for a name, but when I saw the Rick Mercer segment, I suddenly couldn’t think of anything more fitting for an organization based on tagging and tracking fish,” explained White.

While the primary goal of the brew is the raise funds for local ocean charities, the beer also seeks to educate Nova Scotians on some of its resident marine fauna. The logos, which are planned to become a yearly series, feature a new species and describe the research being conducted to help inform better management of marine animals. TV interviews are also putting research into the spotlight, highlighting Nova Scotia’s impressive marine research sector and giving viewers a unique perspective on local science outside of overly-amped PopSci shows and Shark Week. 

When asked what his hopes for the brewing collaboration would achieve, White had more than one objective in mind. “I hope people see this beer as a great version of the modern IPA style–huge tropical notes, juicy and aromatic. However, our ultimate goal is to draw not only attention to the excellent work being done by environmental conservationists in Nova Scotia, but also to the plight of marine animals across the planet’s ocean,” he said. “This collaboration has become a hallmark annual seasonal beer for us and we expect to continue working on its production with the OTN for the foreseeable future.”

New look, same taste

An Atlantic torpedo ray rests on the ocean floor in the waters off Nova Scotia (Photo: Lloyd Bond)

This August, Tag, You’re It! swims into stores again. OTN and Big Spruce “colla-beer-ators” will decide on a new roster of ocean-organizations to which to give the conservation funds. In place of last year’s tree-hungry shark, the new logo features a mysterious local creature: the electric torpedo ray. 

Shockingly good

Although little research has been conducted on the torpedo ray, one thing is certain: the elasmobranch is the ocean’s largest and most powerful electric fish, delivering a 200-volt shock to predators and prey alike. OTN Executive Director, Fred Whoriskey, along with colleagues from Dalhousie University tagged the first-ever torpedo ray with a satellite tag in 2015, and have tagged more than 15 rays to date at a super-secret ray hangout.

 

“We know almost nothing about these animals and the role the play in the Scotian Shelf ecosystem,” said Whoriskey. “We’re aiming to study of the local population to answer questions about rays’ migration routes, social and feeding behaviours and potential encounters with natural predators.”  

While this year’s conservation financing efforts may be directed to other areas of oceans research and education, the electric elasmobranch featured on this year’s beer can is sure to get people talking about little-known aquatic wildlife that makes its home in the waters around Nova Scotia. Happy swimming.

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