Community-Based Monitoring and Research

Mercury Levels in Food Fish Species in Lakes Used by Dehcho Community Members with a Focus on Choice and Risk Perception of Eating Traditional Country Food

Project Leader: George Low, Dehcho First Nations, Hay River
Tel: (867) 876-0441, Email:geobarbgeo@hotmail.com ;

Project Team Members and their Affiliations: Dahti Tsetso and Mike Low, Dehcho First Nations;Heidi Swanson, University of Waterloo; Marlene Evans, Environment Canada; Bruce Townsend, BEAT Environmental Inc

Northern Regions Included in the Study: NWT

Project Duration: 2011-2015


2014-15 Synopsis

Abstract: 

Mercury levels in fish in some Dehcho lakes have been found to be high and increasing in some cases. The Dehcho Aboriginal Aquatic Resources and Ocean Management (AAROM) program has been collaborating with Dr. Marlene Evans of Environment Canada on her temporal study of mercury levels of fish in Dehcho Region lakes. AAROM has contracted community First Nations in the region to collect fish for sampling from fishing lakes in Dehcho territory. Environment Canada analyses the samples for mercury levels and reports results back to the Dehcho AAROM and to NCP.

Dr. Heidi Swanson of the University of Waterloo is collaborating with Dehcho AAROM in a study titled; “Understanding and predicting fish mercury levels in the Dehcho Region using models of bio-magnification and bio-accumulation.” Most of our study funding is provided by NWT CIMP, the Dehcho AAROM and in-kind from the University of Waterloo however NCP provides funding for the analysis of mercury and stable isotopes. We have completed the second year of a three year study with the sampling of Trout, Ekali, and Sanguez lakes in 2013 and Tathlina, Gargan and McGill in 2014. Kakisa, Mustard and Big Island lakes will round out the study in 2015. (Study detail is on the Polar Data Catalogue # 11918).

NCP has shared funding of our annual “A Return to Country Foods” workshop. The 2014 workshop was successful with Grand Chief Herb Norwegian speaking of the benefit of traditional and scientific knowledge complimenting each other. Forty eight First Nation and Metis leaders, environmental managers, elders and harvesters discussed various studies as presented by eight researchers and government managers. All went away with a better understanding of each other’s perspectives on the mercury issues and the importance of including fish in a healthy diet. Chief Stanley Sanguez of Jean Marie River recommended that researchers design a fish-down study of Sanguez Lake to see if the population of large, old predator fish could be removed and a more normal population established. Results of this AAROM funded pilot study may be applicable to other lakes with similar population imbalances.  

Key messages:

·         Mercury levels in some predatory fish in some lakes in the Dehcho Region have been found to be high and in some cases increasing.

·         Fish from Dehcho lakes are being checked for mercury levels and low risk lakes and species are being identified for community fisheries.

·         Heidi Swanson, a researcher from the University of Waterloo is studying the understanding and predicting of mercury levels in fish using models of bio-magnification and bio-accumulation.

·         The 3rd annual Return to Country Food workshop brought together First Nation and Metis leaders, environmental managers, elders and harvesters with researchers and government managers resulting in a greater understanding of each other’s mercury concerns and issues.

·         A mitigation strategy for lakes with fish populations that have high mercury levels was discussed and resulted in a recommendation for Dehcho AAROM to lead a fish-down study of a representative lake with involvement of the community of Jean Marie River.


Synopsis (2013-2014):

Abstract

The annual Country Food Workshop series is an ideal forum to increase communication between government and university researchers and the Dehcho leadership. The workshop provides an excellent opportunity for Dehcho leaders, environmental coordinators, community members, and university and government researchers to meet and share ideas and opinions. It not only provides researchers with a forum to explain their studies and present their findings but it also gives the Dehcho community delegates the chance to have their Traditional Knowledge and experience built into the process of understanding the aquatic environment.

The Dehcho Aboriginal Aquatic Resource and Oceans Management (AAROM) is working towards finding fishing lakes with acceptable levels of mercury in fish for each of the communities. This strategy will include Great Slave Lake and Mackenzie River fish that usually have low mercury levels.

The University of Waterloo mercury bioaccumulation study was designed by Dr. Heidi Swanson to answer several questions: Why do some lakes have high mercury and others low mercury levels? Why are levels in some lakes increasing while others are decreasing? Are there ways to mitigate mercury levels in fish populations? It’s a complex issue which includes climate change effects as well as other factors such as harvest rates.

The Dehcho AAROM Youth program is now focused on “Clean Water, Healthy Food and Good Choices”. We recognize the importance cultural and spiritual wellbeing in our youth program, and youth camps usually include Elder and harvester Traditional Knowledge as well as bush skills and safe practices.

Key Messages

  • AAROM, in partnership with researchers and community monitors, are building a data set that will serve to advise our membership on low risk fishing species and lakes in the Dehcho, but will also warn them of high risk fish through GNWT-Health and Social Services consumption advisories.

  • Fish species from eleven fishing lakes were checked for mercury levels during the study (2010 – 2013). In some cases, lake whitefish were checked even though this species is generally low in mercury. The purpose of this approach was to reassure our members in the Dehcho that whitefish and other non-predatory fish are a good food choice in any lake.

  • Lake whitefish were found to be low in mercury in all lakes tested.

  • Northern pike were found to be below 0.5 parts per million of mercury in Big Island Lake, Mustard Lake and Willow Lake, however they were over 0.5 parts per million in many of the fishing lakes.

  • Walleye were found to be below 0.5 parts per million of mercury in Willow Lake.

  • Lake trout were below the 0.5 mark in Big Island Lake, Trout Lake, Fish Lake and Willow Lake. However these species were found to be high in mercury in many Dehcho fishing lakes.

Project Summary (2013-2014)

The Dehcho First Nations (DFN), in collaboration with Environment Canada, has been updating the data on mercury levels in fish from lakes in the Dehcho region. Mercury levels in predatory fish in some lakes may be increasing due to climate change and other factors. In some cases the new levels of mercury in fish have increased and even doubled. New health advisories have been issued for some fish types in certain lakes by the GNWT - Health and Social Services. During the 2013-14 fiscal year, the Dehcho First Nations will continue to provide logistical assistance with the collection of fish for contaminant analysis in order to identify lakes that have a variety of fish species with safe levels of mercury for consumption; support researchers who are studying mercury contamination and pathways in Dehcho lakes; and provide a forum for Northern Contaminants Program researchers and others to communicate project results to the Dehcho communities through a variety of workshops and other communication initiatives. The project team’s research emphasis is changing from the collection and analysis of fish for mercury, to including the study of the apparent shift in diet from fish and other traditional food towards a market-based diet. People in some communities are consuming less fish and other country food. Part of the reason seems to be a perception that water and fish are no longer safe because of the presence of mercury and other contaminants. These perceptions need to be examined and addressed at the community level in order to encourage people to return to a healthy traditional diet.

Synopsis (2012-2013):

The Dehcho AAROM program has been involved, for the past several years, in the collection of fish samples for mercury analysis from inland lakes fished by our member communities. In 2012-13, we collected fish samples from Trout, Gargan, Tathlina and Little Doctor lakes to update mercury level data. We also sampled a promising site, Mustard Lake in the Horn Plateau, to continue our search for alternate lakes where the fish are low in mercury. We have partnered with Environment Canada who analyse the samples and with GNWT, Healthand Social Services who issue consumption guidelines as necessary. In 2012-13, a total of 141 fish from 5 lakes were sent to DOE.

We have learned from community leaders and harvesters during our communication processes that an unfortunate side effect of our mercury studies is that some of our members are no longer eating locally caught fish regardless of species, size or lake status. As a result we have changed our focus to communicating positive messages and finding safe sources of fish for each of our communities. “The Return to Country Food” workshop brought together leaders, resource managers and harvesters to learn more about contaminants and also about the health benefits of including fish and other country food in the diet. We are working with Health Canada on a country food diet survey and with GNWT, Health and Social Services to promote healthy eating. We have developed a mercury learning module for our youth programs and have begun to deliver healthy eating messages as a part of our youth camp curriculum.

Key Messages

  • There is a need for better communication on water quality and contaminants such as mercury in the Dehcho region.
  • The health benefits of eating fish far outweigh the risks from mercury contamination in the Dehcho. Eat smaller (younger) fish and non-predators such as whitefish and suckers. Follow GNWT consumption guidelines if you eat predatory fish on a regular basis.
  • All species of fish from Great Slave Lake, Willow Lake and Big Island Lake are low in mercury; Non-predatory fish such as Lake Whitefish, suckers and grayling are generally low in mercury in all lakes or rivers in the Dehcho

Synopsis (2011-2012):

Abstract
The Dehcho First Nations is requesting funding in order to update mercury levels data in fish from lakes utilized by Dene and Métis community members. The recent release of mercury data by Environment Canada and the new health advisories from Health Canada have caused increased concerns in our communities. There are lakes and species of fish which are safe to harvest and contain acceptable levels of mercury. We want to be able to reassure people in cases where risks are low and warn people in cases where health advisories have been released. There may be a need to reevaluate health risks due to the possible increase in mercury due to climate change or other unknown causes. This project will continue next fiscal year and into the future until a complete update of "fishing lakes" have been assessed. Next fiscal year our application for funding will include work with GNWT Health to build a comprehensive communications plan for the Dehcho. The work this year will concentrate on collecting samples from five communities which seem to be most affected; Liidlii Kue (LKFN), Fort Simpson), Jean Marie River, (JMRFN) Ka'a'gee Tu (KTFN) (Kakisa), Fort Providence (FPRMB) and Sambaa K'e (Trout Lake). Twenty samples from each species of fish will be collected from each of seven lakes used by the communities. Marlene Evans of Environment Canada is partnering in this study and will arrange the processing, analysis and will interpret results. Data collected will be useful in her temporal
studies as well, including her investigation of special variations in mercury concentrations and time trends.

Key Messages

  • The study to update mercury levels in fish in lakes used by Dehcho Communities was continued in 2011-12.
  • Training of local people in field research techniques increased capacity through the Dehcho First Nations initiative to have trained monitors in each of the Dehcho communities.
  • Involvement of the community leadership and administration in this study will increase the capacity for collaborative management of aquatic resources in the Dehcho.

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Evaluation of Hydro-Climatic Drivers of Contaminant Transfer in Aquatic Food Webs in the Husky Lakes Watershed (Inuvialuit Settlement Region, Northwest Territories)

Project Leader: Jolie Garies, Aurora Research Institute, Western Arctic Research Inuvik, NT Canada,
Phone: +1 (867) 777-3298
Jolie.Gareis@auroracollege.nt.ca

Project Team:

  • Dr. Nikolaus Gantner, Dr. Holger Hintelmann, Dr. Jim D. Reist, Jennie Knopp, Dr. Chris Furgal, Trent University;
  • Dr. Gary Anderson, Benjamin Kissinger, UManitoba;
  • Donald Ross, Aurora Research Institute

Northern Regions Included in the Study: NWT

Project Duration: 2013-2014


Project Summary (2013-2014)

This project will continue the investigation of climate effects on food webs and related contaminants transfer to top predators of lakes near the communities of Inuvik and Tuktoyaktuk using a mixed method approach. Past sample collections for this project have been conducted following traditional knowledge interviews and in conjunction with Fall/Spring fishing by residents of Tuktoyaktuk and Inuvik. The initial research established a baseline for future changes of climate and land use in the Inuvialuit Settlement Region. The project team expects to see differences in productivity related to ice cover, differences in food web structure, and subsequent contaminants transfer. The project team also expects to see varying levels of contaminant concentrations in Lake Trout related to growth rates as a result of differences in diet in the freshwater and marine-influenced basins. A method will be used that could allow the project team to track the ‘fingerprint’ of mercury through the food web. Comparisons will be made in how the mercury ‘fingerprint’ differs in Yaya, Big, Noell lakes, and the Husky Lakes. The community will be informed about the concentrations of mercury in the Lake Trout at all sites. This study will build on and utilize knowledge from previous fisheries work at the Husky Lakes, Yaya, and Big Lake. The extension of this project could aid in the future design of a community-based monitoring program of the fisheries in the area and can be linked to other environmental pre-assessment plans currently being developed in the light of the Inuvik-Tuktoyaktuk all-weather road.

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Paulatuk Beluga Whales: Health and Knowledge

Project Leader: Diane Ruben, Paulatuk Hunters and Trappers Committee  
Tel: (867) 580-3004, Fax: (867) 580-3404

Project Team Members and their Affiliations: Lisa Loseto and Sonja Ostertag, Fisheries and Oceans Canada; Kristin Hynes, Fisheries Joint management Committee

Northern Regions Included in the Study: Darnley Bay, NWT

Project Duration: 2012-2015


2014-15 Synopsis

Abstract: Recent changes in climate and the ice regime in Darnley Bay have changed and increased the frequency of beluga hunts by the community of Paulatuk in the Inuvialuit Settlement Region. The community of Paulatuk has many questions about the beluga being harvested, in regards to their health and how similar or different they are to whales monitored at Hendrickson Island in Mackenzie Estuary and as such have been leading a beluga monitoring program in partnership with Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Fisheries Joint Management Committee. This summer two monitors (stationary and mobile) sampled eleven whales from the harvest. Additionally as part of the LEK/TEK indicators project they participated and collected data to support the joint project.  Length measurements were taken, along with jaws for ageing and tissues for mercury and stable isotope analyses. Whales were slightly smaller and younger than those landed last year, and similar to whales sampled at Hendrickson this summer. Relative to findings in 2013 mercury concentrations were low and lower than those at Hendrickson Island despite being in the same age and size classes. Further investigations using diet biomarkers such as stable isotopes may provide insight into diet and exposure variability.

Key messages:

  • The community of Paulatuk had a successful harvest in the summer of 2014 that began earlier than usual, in late June. Eleven whales were harvested and sampled for the program. This year the program was merged with the Local and Traditional Ecological Knowledge Indicators project.
  • Samples were sent to Fisheries and Oceans Canada to estimate age (teeth growth layer groups), measure the contaminant mercury (muscle, liver and skin), and evaluate the diet indicators, stable isotopes to better define diet and diet drivers of mercury levels.
  • Preliminary results revealed Hg concentrations to be lower than those measured the previous year as well as lower than measurements obtained from whales harvested at Hendrickson Island despite being in a similar age and size class.

Observations from the community and harvesters on whale health and condition were collected alongside this program to evaluate in context with measurements taken here.


Synopsis (2013-2014):

Abstract

Recent changes in climate and ice in Darnley Bay have changed the frequency of beluga hunts by the community of Paulatuk in the Inuvialuit Settlement Region. The community of Paulatuk has many questions about the beluga being harvested, in regards to their health and how similar or different they are to whales monitored at Hendrickson Island in Mackenzie Estuary. The community of Paulatuk wanted to lead their own community-based monitoring program to assess beluga health and contaminant levels. This summer, two monitors from Paulatuk collected samples from eleven harvested whales. The hunters and monitors noted the challenges in ice and weather conditions that hampered harvests. Length measurements were taken, along with jaws for ageing and tissues for mercury and stable isotope analyses. Whales were larger and older than those taken in 2005, and comparable to whales sampled at Hendrickson Island. Unlike previous years, the mercury concentrations in whales harvested near Paulatuk were higher than those observed in whales from Hendrickson Island. Comparisons with both Hendrickson whales and historical whales taken in Paulatuk suggest a possible shift in diet in recent years. However, given the low sample size (n=11) it is difficult to conclude on such observations. Future efforts will be placed on increased observational information collected along with harvest samples.

Key Messages

  • The community had a very successful harvest in 2013-2014. Fourteen beluga were taken, and one lost due to ice in Lessard/Brock River area to the East of Paulatuk.

  • Eleven beluga were sampled and shipped to the Freshwater Institute in Winnipeg for analysis.

  • Most samples were taken from the mouth of the Hornaday River on August 4, 2013.Water depth here is about 20-30 feet (6.1-9.1 m) in the main channel.

  • Samples were sent to Fisheries and Oceans Canada to estimate age, measure mercury levels in muscle, liver and skin, and evaluate diet indicators.

  • Preliminary results revealed mercury concentrations to be higher than those measured at Hendrickson Island, which may be driven by the larger size of whales harvested near Paulatuk. We are evaluating the drivers of short term (muscle) and longer term (liver) mercury accumulation in Paulatuk belugas

Project Summary (2013-2014)

The community of Paulatuk hunts beluga whales in the summer. The hunts are limited by sea ice conditions that have been changing over the years. Hunters have had concerns and questions about the health and well-being of the beluga whales and their supporting ecosystems. While these whales are part of the same population as those harvested at Hendrickson Island, previous research from 2005 showed differences in mercury concentrations, diet and other biological measurements. This suggests that while the whales are from the same population there are differences among the whale groups that are not fully understood. The differences in whales collected at Hendrickson Island and those collected in Paulatuk raises new questions about variability among beluga and how one monitoring site is reflective of a large population with a home range.

Previous work has shown whales collected at Hendrickson have similar mercury concentrations as those collected at other nearby monitoring sites (Kendall Island, East Whitefish) that are located in the Mackenzie Estuary. The habitat near Paulatuk is very different than the Mackenzie Estuary. How habitat is used differs, and may reflect different diets and processes among the whales. Mercury concentrations in Paulatuk beluga muscle and skin (muktuk) were higher than levels measured in 2005 and 2011, and were slightly higher than the levels measured in Hendrickson Island beluga whales. Concentrations in liver also increased in 2012, but remained lower than concentrations observed in Hendrickson Island beluga whales. These results raise new questions about beluga diet and accumulation rates, and require more analyses with age and diet indicators. Links with size, habitat use and timing of beluga arrival to the area will be investigated.


Synopsis (2012-2013):

Recent changes in climate and ice in Darnley Bay have changed and increased the frequency of beluga hunts by the community of Paulatuk in the Inuvialuit Settlement Region. The community of Paulatuk has many questions about the beluga being harvested, in regards to their health and how similar or different they are to whales monitored at Hendrickson Island in Mackenzie Estuary. This summer, two monitors from Paulatuk collected samples from seven harvested whales. The hunters and monitors noted the challenges in changes with the ice and weather that hampered harvests. Length measurements were taken, along with jaws for ageing and tissues for mercury and stable isotope analyses. Whales were larger and older than those taken in 2005 and comparable to whales sampled at Hendrickson. Similar mercury concentrations to Hendrickson whales were measured in skin and muscle. However the liver levels remained much lower than Hendrickson whales. Comparisons with both Hendrickson whales and historical whales taken in Paulatuk suggest a possible shift in diet in recent years. However, given the low sample size (e.g. 7) it is difficult to conclude on such observations. Future efforts will be placed on increased observational information collected along with harvest samples.

Key Messages

  • Due to early open water in Darnley Bay and high winds the beluga occurrence and hunts were different than 2011. Two beluga whale monitors (one stationed at Browns Harbour-northern tip of Darnley Bay, and one mobile monitor) sampled 7 harvested whales.
  • Samples were sent to Fisheries and Oceans Canada to estimate age (teeth growth layer groups), measure the contaminant mercury (muscle, liver and skin), and evaluate the diet indicators, stable isotopes to better define diet and diet drivers of mercury levels.
  • Preliminary results revealed muscle mercury levels were similar to those measured in Hendrickson Island beluga whales and higher than those measured previously in 2005. Conversely liver mercury levels were lower than those measured in Hendrickson Island belugas. We are evaluating the drivers of short term (muscle) and longer term (liver) mercury accumulation in Paulatuk belugas

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Tlicho Aquatic Ecosystem Monitoring Project

Project leader:

Jody Pellissey, Wek’èezhìi Renewable Resources Board, Yellowknife
Tel: (867)-873-5740; Fax: (867)-873-5743; E-mail: jpellissey@wrrb.ca

Project team:

Susan Beaumont, and Boyan Tracz, Wek’èezhìı Renewable Resources Board (WRRB), Yellowknife; Dr. Sarah Elsasser, Ryan Fequet, Roberta Judas, and Meghan Schnurr, Wek’èezhìı Land and Water Board; Dr. Marlene Evans, Environment and Climate Change Canada; Adeline Football, Wekweètì Office, Tłıc̨ hǫ Government; Dr. Jennifer Fresque-Baxter, Ryan Gregory, and Katherine Trembath, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Government of the Northwest Territories; Ellen Lea, and Deanna Leonard, Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada; Linna O’Hara, Department of Health and Social Services, Government of the Northwest Territories; Sjoerd van der Wielen, Department of Culture and Lands Protection, Tłıc̨ hǫ Government; Dr. Paul Vecsei, Golder Associates Ltd.

Project duration: 2011- present


Project Summary (2016-2017)

The Tlicho Aquatic Ecosystem Monitoring Program (TAEMP) is a successful community-based monitoring program that meets the needs of the Tlicho people in determining whether fish condition, water quality, and sediment quality are changing over time. The TAEMP directly and meaningfully involves Tłı̨chǫ community members in monitoring and conducting contaminants-related research, including the collection of fish tissue, water samples, and sediment samples. Community member observations are also sought to ensure that both Indigenous and scientific knowledge are being used to address the question: “Are the fish safe to eat and is the water safe to drink?” As such, Tlicho community members and researchers are provided with opportunities to exchange knowledge in appropriate community and on-the-land settings. The TAEMP annually rotates sampling activities through the four Tłı̨chǫ communities, sampling each community once every four years. The TAEMP has completed its initial baseline-sampling phase with all four Tlicho communities. In September 2015, the first round of comparative sampling began with the community of Behchoko. The comparative sampling phase will continue with a return to Snare Lake near the community of Wekweètì in 2016. Comparative sampling will provide data that will allow for monitoring trends over time and contribute to addressing community concerns related to changes in the environment. The TAEMP will continue to build on work carried out since 2010.


Synopsis (2015-2016)

Abstract:

The Tłı̨chǫ Aquatic Ecosystem Monitoring Program (TAEMP) continues to provide a means of addressing community concerns related to changes in the environment, and builds on work carried out since 2010. The program meaningfully involves community members in many aspects of conducting contaminants-related research and engages them to use scientific as well as Tłı̨chǫ traditional knowledge to answer the questions “Are the fish and water safe to consume?”

In September 2015, a five-day on-the-land monitoring camp was held on Russell Lake, a large lake near the community of Behchokǫ̀. The camp was held at the same location as the 2011 TAEMP monitoring camp and at a location that supports an aboriginal subsistence fishery. The 2015 camp returned to locations on Russell and Slemon Lakes where sediment and water sampling occurred in 2011 to allow for comparative sampling. Elders and community members spoke about fish and aquatic ecosystem health, passed on their knowledge to participants, and ensured safe transport to sampling locations. Methods for processing fish and collecting water and sediment samples for lab analyses were demonstrated on shore, and field sampling provided youth with hands-on experience in scientific sampling methods. A results workshop was held in Behchokǫ̀ in April 2016 in order to present the results of the sample analyses to camp participants and to interested community members.

Fish tissue analysis indicated mercury levels were low in both Pickerel and Lake Whitefish, with Northern Pike samples having the highest concentrations overall. None of the species’ tissue samples showed levels of mercury that were considered abnormal for northern lakes (e.g. it was primarily the larger, older Northern Pike that were above the guideline for mercury). Water and sediment results supported the expectation that water and sediment quality is “good” (i.e. not abnormal) in Russell and Slemon Lakes.

Key messages:

  • The fish tissue analyses showed that mercury levels were low in both Lake Whitefish and Pickerel, with some of the larger older Northern Pike sampled above the guideline. No contaminant levels measured in any of the species’ fish tissue samples were considered to be abnormal
  • Water and sediment quality results support the expectation that water quality and sediment quality are good in Russell and Slemon Lakes. No water or sediment contaminant levels were considered to be abnormal
  • Community members were pleased with the implementation of the program, citing the importance of continued monitoring near their community of Behchokǫ̀, the participation and education of youth, and the sharing and transfer of both traditional and science-based knowledge among participants
  • Community members were pleased that results of sampling were presented in Behchokǫ̀, and that analyses indicated that fish, water, and sediment quality were good (i.e. not abnormal)
  • A basic comparison of the 2015 to 2011 results suggests that there are no major changes in the quality of fish, water or sediment

Synopsis (2014-15)

Abstract:

The Tlicho Aquatic Ecosystem Monitoring Program (TAEMP) continues to provide a means of addressing community concerns related to changes in the environment, and builds on work carried out from 2010-2013. A successful community-driven program, it meaningfully involves community members in conducting contaminants-related research, including the collection of samples and observations using both Tlicho and scientific knowledge to address the question: “Are the fish and water safe to consume?”

In September 2014, a 5-day on-the-land monitoring camp was held on Lac la Martre, a large lake near the community of Whatì at a location that supports an aboriginal subsistence fishery. Elders spoke about fish and aquatic ecosystem health, and passed on their knowledge to participants. Community members determined where fish, water and sediment samples were taken and cooperated with scientists during the collection of samples. Methods for processing fish and collecting water and sediment samples for lab analyses were demonstrated; field sampling provided youth with hands-on experience in scientific sampling methods. A results workshop was held in Whatì in February 2015 to present results to camp participants and interested community members, including senior students from the Mezi Community School.

Fish tissue analysis indicated that mercury levels were low in both Lake Whitefish and Lake Trout, with trout having the highest concentrations overall. Neither Lake Whitefish nor Lake Trout showed levels of mercury that were considered abnormal for northern lakes, and Lake Trout had levels that were some of the lowest observed over the implementation of the TAEMP. Water and sediment samples supported the expectation that water and sediment quality is “good” (i.e. not abnormal) in Lac la Martre.

Key messages:

  • The fish tissue analysis showed that mercury levels were low in both Lake Whitefish and Lake Trout. No contaminant levels measured in fish tissue were considered to be abnormal.
  • Water and sediment quality results support the expectation that water quality and sediment quality are good in Lac la Martre, and that Lac la Martre is typical of other lakes in the area. No water or sediment contaminant levels were considered to be abnormal.
  • Community members were pleased with the implementation of the program, citing the importance of monitoring near their community, the participation and education of youth, and the sharing and transfer of both traditional and science-based knowledge among participants.
  • Community members were pleased that results of sampling were presented in Whatì in a timely fashion, and that analyses indicated that fish, water, and sediment quality were good (i.e. not abnormal) in Lac la Martre.

Synopsis (2013-2014):

Abstract

The Tłı̨chǫ Aquatic Ecosystem Monitoring Program (TAEMP) continues to provide a means of addressing community concerns related to changes in the environment, and builds on work carried out from 2010-2013. A successful community-driven program, it meaningfully involves community members in conducting contaminants-related research, including the collection of samples and observations using both Tłı̨chǫ and scientific knowledge to address the question: “Are the fish and water safe to consume?”

In September 2013, a 5-day on-the-land monitoring camp was held near Gamètì at a location that supports an Aboriginal subsistence fishery. Elders spoke about fish and aquatic ecosystem health, and directed where fish, water, and sediment samples should be taken. Community members, in cooperation with scientists, collected samples. The methods for processing fish tissues for lab analysis were demonstrated. A results workshop was held in Gamètì in February to present results of analyses; camp participants and community members attended.

Fish tissue analysis indicated that mercury levels were low in whitefish, and that lake trout had higher levels by comparison (with older individuals of lake trout having the highest overall). Both whitefish and lake trout did not show levels of mercury that were considered abnormal for northern lakes. Water and sediment samples indicated that water quality and sediment quality is good near Gamètì. Interestingly,Traditional Knowledge and science both acknowledged the quality of the location used for “tea water”, as water there was “softer” than found at all other locations.

Key Messages

  • The fish tissue analysis showed that mercury levels were low in whitefish, and that older lake trout have higher levels. No abnormal levels of contaminants were found.
  • The water and sediment quality sampling results show that Rae Lakes is typical of other lakes in the area.
  • Community members were pleased with the implementation of the program, citing the importance of monitoring near their community, participation of the youth in the camp and the successful transfer of both traditional and science-based knowledge. Community members were also pleased with the timely presentation of results, and were very happy to learn that fish, water, and sediment quality are good near Gamètì.

Synopsis (2012-2013):

The project builds on a community-driven aquatic ecosystem monitoring project carried out in 2010 and 2011 as a means of addressing community concerns related to observed changes in the environment. The project engaged local community members to collect samples and record a standard set of observations using both Tlicho and western scientific knowledge to address the question “are the fish and water safe to consume?” As a community- driven project, it meaningfully involved community members in all aspects of conducting contaminants related research, including in the actual pursuit of monitoring and research objectives.A monitoring camp was held on Snare Lake; a location that supports a strong aboriginal subsistence fishery. Water, sediment and fish were sampled by Elders, youth and fisheries scientists. Elders were asked to provide assessments of fish health and to describe the indicators they use to identify fish health. Scientists sampled fish tissues and demonstrated to Elders and youth the methods for collecting fish tissues for analysis. A results workshop was held in Wek’weètì to present the results of the fish tissue analysis, water and sediment quality sampling. Community members were informed and educated on the status of contaminants in the fish they may be eating and that these foods remain healthy choices perhaps within certain limits.

The fish tissue analysis showed that mercury levels are relatively low except in very large and very old individuals of Lake Trout. Lake Trout are predatory fish and as such bioaccumulate mercury as they consume prey. Small to moderate sized Lake Trout and Lake Whitefish were within Health Canada guidelines for Commercial Sale of Fish and do not pose a health risk.

Annual implementation of the program through the consistent use of the monitoring protocols developed this year will be key in achieving the main goals of long-term monitoring: detecting change over time and space.

Key Messages

  • The fish tissue analysis showed that mercury levels are relatively low except in very large and very old individuals of Lake Trout.
  • The water and sediment quality sampling results show that Snare Lake is typical of other lakes in the area; low levels of nutrients, dissolved metals and moderate suspended sediment.
  • The traditional knowledge forms an invaluable baseline against which we can measure change. Wek’weètì elders have observed many changes in water temperature and levels as well as increases parasites and cysts in fish

Synopsis (2011-2012):

Abstract

The project builds on community-driven and community-based fisheries and monitoring work carried out in 2010 and is the first of a multiphase program to share and document Tåîchô knowledge and western scientific knowledge on the aquatic environment in Russell Lake. The project engaged local community members to collect samples and record a standard set of observations using both Tåîchô and western scientific knowledge. As a community-initiated and community-driven project, it involved community members in a meaningful manner in all aspects of conducting contaminants related research, including in the actual pursuit of monitoring and research objectives. A monitoring camp was held on Russell Lake; a location that supports a strong aboriginal subsistence fishery. Water, sediment and fish were sampled by Elders, youth and fisheries scientists. Elders were asked to provide assessments of fish health and to describe the indicators they use to identify fish health. Scientists sampled fish tissues and demonstrated to Elders and youth the methods for collecting fish tissues for analysis. A results workshop was held in Behchokö to present the results of the fish tissue analysis, water and sediment quality sampling. Community members were informed and educated on the status of contaminants in the fish they may be eating and that these foods remain healthy choices perhaps within certain limits. The fish tissue analysis showed that mercury levels are relatively low except in very large and very old individuals of walleye and northern pike. Pike and walleye are predatory fish and as such bioaccumulate mercury as they consume prey. Small to moderate sized pike and walleye were within Health Canada guidelines for Commercial Sale of Fish and do not pose a health risk. All samples of Lake Whitefish tissue had very low amounts of mercury. Annual implementation of the program through the consistent use of the monitoring protocols developed this year will be key in achieving the main goals of long-term monitoring: detecting change over time and space.

Key Messages

  • The fish tissue analysis showed that mercury levels are relatively low except in very large and very old individuals of walleye and northern pike.
  • The water and sediment quality sampling results show that Russell Lake is typical of other lakes in the area; low levels of nutrients, dissolved metals and moderate suspended sediment.
  • The traditional knowledge forms an invaluable baseline against which we can measure change. Behchokö elders have observed many changes in water quality, temperature, flow and levels as well as changes in fish texture, size, shape and taste.

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Enhancing community-based monitoring of ecosystem changes in the ISR through the bridging of western scientific knowledge with local and traditional ecological knowledge

Project leaders:

Vic Gillman, Fisheries Joint Management Committee Chair, Inuvik
Tel: (867) 777-2828, Fax: (867) 777- 2610, E-mail: vgillman@cabletv.on.ca

Danny Swainson, Resource Biologist, Fisheries Joint Management Committee, Inuvik
Tel: (867) 777-2828, Fax: (867) 777- 2610, E-mail: vgillman@cabletv.on.ca

Lisa Loseto, Freshwater Institute/Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Winnipeg
Tel: (204) 983-5135; Fax : (204) 984-2403; E-mail: lisa.loseto@dfo-mpo.gc.ca

Sonja Ostertag, Freshwater Institute/Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Winnipeg
Tel: (204)-984-8543, Fax: (204)-984-2403, E-mail: Sonja.ostertag@dfo-mpo.gc.ca

Project team:

Kate Snow, Inuvik; Eric Loring, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami; Inuvik Hunters and Trappers Committee; Tuktoyaktuk Hunters and Trappers Committee; Paulatuk Hunters and Trappers Committee; Olokhaktomiut HTC; Tristan Pearce, University of Guelph/University of the Sunshine Coast, Australia; Devin Waugh, University of Guelph; Tuktoyaktuk Community Corporation, Jen Lam, Inuvialuit Game Council

Project duration: 2013-present


Project Summary (2016-2017)

As part of a larger three-year program on beluga monitoring, this project is exploring the development of local ecological indicators for beluga health and habitat use. Between 2013 and 2015, traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) and local observations related to belugas were recorded by harvesters, community members, and research partners in the Inuvialuit Settlement Region (ISR). In order to ensure that the knowledge held by the Inuvialuit was recorded alongside scientific measurements and samples, existing beluga monitoring programs in Darnley Bay and Kugmallit Bay provided ideal platforms on which to expand. Community perspectives and knowledge on the characteristics of healthy belugas, general areas of beluga habitat use, and annual beluga sightings will be synthesized and presented through a report, oral presentation, and poster/one-pager. These materials are being developed with support from the Inuvialuit Game Council, Fisheries Joint Management Committee, and Department of Fisheries and Oceans, as well as in consultation with key knowledge holders in participating communities. To complete this study, the outcomes from this project will be linked to the long-term beluga monitoring program and materials will be developed to communicate final results to Hunter and Trappers Organizations and community participants in the ISR. A comprehensive beluga-monitoring program in the ISR will provide key data on changes in the ecosystem through the use of biological, local ecological knowledge, and TEK indicators.


Synopsis (2015-2016)

Abstract:

This project was initiated in 2013 to record local observations and to identify local and traditional ecological knowledge indicators of beluga health and habitat use. Beluga sightings were recorded from June to September between 2013 and 2015 in the coastal areas of the Inuvialuit Settlement Region (ISR), NT. Harvesters’ observations about beluga whale health and habitat use were collected using semi-structured questionnaires in 2013, 2014 and 2015 at Hendrickson Island (n = 48), East Whitefish Station (n= 25) and Darnley Bay (n= 19). In addition, focus groups and one-on-one in-depth discussions were held with 8-10 community knowledge holders in Inuvik, Tuktoyaktuk and Paulatuk to fill knowledge gaps and verify research outcomes.

In this final phase of this project, the community observations and knowledge shared between 2013 and 2015 were analysed and interpreted with Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) holders, harvesters and youth to identify potential ‘local ecological indicators’ that will be piloted in the 2016 beluga monitoring program. In addition, the observations made about harvested whales will be analysed alongside scientific indicators to identify areas where these observations could assist with the interpretation of scientific findings.Bringing together local and traditional ecological knowledge and scientific knowledge may provide greater insight into how environmental change may impact the Eastern Beaufort Sea beluga population.

Key messages:

  • This project was initiated to identify and record local and traditional ecological knowledge for inclusion in beluga monitoring and research.
  • From an Inuvialuit perspective, the health of beluga whales is based on the appearance and behaviour of the whales during harvesting activities, the condition of muscle, muktuk and blubber, and the appearance of internal organs.
  • Project participants have in-depth knowledge about beluga calving areas, potential nursery areas, feeding areas and travel routes/times in the areas surrounding their communities and harvest sites.
  • Scientific measurements and Inuvialuit observations could be recorded following the harvest to monitor beluga health.
  • Monitoring beluga habitat use depends on community members sharing their observations in addition to having TEK-holders interpret the observations made in their communities.

Synopsis (2014-15)

Abstract:

This project was initiated in 2013 to record local observations and identify local and traditional ecological knowledge indicators of beluga health and habitat use. Beluga sightings were recorded from June to August 2014 in the coastal areas of the Inuvialuit Settlement Region (ISR), NT. Harvesters’ observations were collected using semi-structured questionnaires in 2013 and 2014 at Hendrickson Island (n = 31), East Whitefish Station (n = 18) and Darnley Bay (n = 10). In addition, interviews were conducted with harvesters and TEK-holders from Paulatuk (n = 8), Inuvik (n = 12) and Tuktoyaktuk (n = 13). In 2014, whales were harvested from groups that varied in terms of composition and number. Harvesters from Kugmallit Bay consistently linked whale health and condition of muktuk with blubber thickness. The condition of the meat was described based on its firmness, colour (the more black the better), texture, quantity, fat on top, the girth and weight, blemishes, taste, and amount of blood coming out of it. Visual inspection of beluga habitat selection did not suggest that the distribution of whales in Kugmallit Bay was linked to habitat characteristics. To date, 11 community members from the Inuvik, Iqaluit, Paulatuk and Tuktoyaktuk contributed to recording observations, distributing observation forms, interviewing community members, assisting with community meetings and/or co-presenting to science classes in the participating communities. In the final phase of this project, the observations and knowledge reported in 2013 and 2014 will be analysed and interpreted with TEK holders and harvesters to identify ‘local ecological indicators’ for beluga monitoring. In addition, the observations made about harvested whales will be analysed alongside scientific indicators to identify areas where these observations could assist with the interpretation of scientific findings. Bringing together local ecological indicators and traditional scientific knowledge may provide greater insight into how environmental change is impacting the Eastern Beaufort Sea beluga population.

Key messages:

  • This project was initiated to identify and record local and traditional ecological knowledge for inclusion in beluga monitoring and research.
  • Potential indicators of beluga health and ecosystem change were identified through open community meetings in Inuvik, Paulatuk and Tuktoyaktuk, NT in June 2013, and led to the development of community-specific questionnaires/surveys to record beluga observations.
  • More than 80 community members from the ISR participated in community meetings, interviews, questionnaires or shore-based surveys for this project.
  • In general, harvesters observed that the harvested whales looked healthy and did not have signs of infection or disease.
  • The distribution of whales in Kugmallit Bay did not appear to be linked to habitat characteristics.

Synopsis (2013-2014)

Abstract

Beluga whales are hunted annually for food in the Mackenzie Delta estuary and Darnley Bay by Inuvialuit hunters. Monitoring of harvested whales has taken place in the Mackenzie Delta since the 1970s and in the Paulatuk area since 1989. In 2013, a new project was initiated to identify and record local and Traditional Ecological Knowledge for inclusion in beluga monitoring and research. Potential indicators of beluga health and ecosystem change were identified through open community meetings in Inuvik, Paulatuk and Tuktoyaktuk in June 2013. Beluga observations were recorded using shore-based and boat-based surveying techniques during the harvest season (July and August). Observations made during the beluga hunt and butchering were recorded using a semi-structured questionnaire, which was administered to harvesters immediately after the whales were flensed. Beluga observations were recorded by 16 harvesters on Hendrickson Island, 9 harvesters at East Whitefish, and 5 harvesters from Paulatuk. This project has increased dialogue between whale monitors, researchers and community organizations, which will strengthen community-based research in the ISR.

Key Messages

  • This project was initiated to identify and record local and Traditional Ecological Knowledge for inclusion in beluga monitoring and research.

  • Potential indicators of beluga health and ecosystem change were identified through open community meetings in Inuvik, Paulatuk and Tuktoyaktuk in June 2013.

  • Observations of beluga were recorded in July and August 2013, using shore-based and boat-based surveying techniques, and semi-structured questionnaires.

  • Dialogue and partnerships between whale monitors, researchers and community organizations was strengthened.

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Harvest Monitoring of Metal Bioaccumulation at Kuujjuaraapik (Nunavik): Have Levels Changed 20 Years After the Great Whale Environmental Assessment?

Project Leaders:

Raymond Mickpegak, Sakkuq Landholding Corporation

Tel.: (819) 929-3566, Fax: (819) 929-3275; Email: rmickpegak@outlook.com

John Chételat, Environment Canada,

Tel.: (613) 991-9835, Fax: (613) 998-0458; E-mail: john.chetelat@ec.gc.ca

Project Team Members:
Jimmy Paul Angatookalook, Charlie Angatookalook, Michael Angatookalook, Daniel Audla, Joanna Fleming, Willie Novalinga, Simionie Papayluk, Vincent Tooktoo, and Alec Tuckatuck, Kuujjuaraapik

Northern Regions Included in the Study: Nunavik

Project Duration: 2013-2015


Synopsis (2014-15)

Abstract:

Two decades ago, metal levels were measured in aquatic and terrestrial wildlife near Kuujjuaraapik as part of a major environmental assessment for the Great Whale hydro-electric project. The main objective of this community-based study was to measure current levels of metals in locally harvested wildlife and to compare them with previous measurements to monitor potential change. In 2014, the Sakkuq Landholding Corporation of Kuujjuaraapik organized hunter collections of tissues (muscle, liver, kidney) of 4 marine animals (ringed seal, sea urchin, blue mussel, common eider), 3 terrestrial animals (snowshoe hare, willow ptarmigan, caribou) and 2 freshwater fish (brook trout, lake whitefish). In addition, terrestrial vegetation (crowberry, Labrador tea, bearberry, lichens) was sampled for metal levels. Animal organs generally had higher metal levels than muscle, particularly mercury in ringed seal liver and cadmium in caribou kidney. We found no overall change in levels of cadmium, copper and zinc in local wildlife as compared to levels measured for the same species between 1989 and 1991. In contrast, levels of arsenic, selenium and mercury were significantly lower in wildlife in 2014. In particular, 2014 mercury concentrations in five species were on average one-third of levels measured in 1989 to 1991. Our findings provide relevant temporal trends information for sub-Arctic Nunavik, a region undergoing significant ecosystem change.

Key Messages:

·         Local hunters collected tissues of ringed seal, common eider, blue mussel, sea urchin, snowshoe hare, willow ptarmigan, caribou, brook trout and whitefish, as well as terrestrial vegetation, near Kuujjuaraapik in 2014 for analysis of metals.

·         Organs generally had higher metal levels than muscle, particularly mercury in ringed seal liver and cadmium in caribou kidney.

·         Mercury in ringed seal muscle was low compared to ringed seal monitored in other Arctic areas, suggesting relatively low mercury exposure in the local marine environment. Cadmium levels in caribou kidney were highly variable with a few elevated values compared to average levels measured by others for caribou in northern Quebec.

Local metal levels in wildlife have remained stable (for cadmium, copper, zinc) or have declined (arsenic, selenium, mercury) in the last two decades.


Synopsis (2013-2014)

Abstract

Twenty years ago, measurements were taken of metal levels in aquatic and terrestrial wildlife near Kuujjuaraapik as part of a major environmental assessment for the Great Whale hydro-electric project. More recent information is not available for contaminant levels in locally-harvested wildlife. However, local people have observed ecosystem changes associated with climate as well as altered marine currents from freshwater discharges of hydro-electric reservoirs into James Bay. The main objective of this community-based study is to measure current levels of metals (including mercury, cadmium and lead) in local fish and wildlife and compare them with previous measurements to monitor potential change. During the first year of this project, the Sakkuq Landholding Corporation of Kuujjuaraapik organized the winter collection of ringed seal, caribou, snowshoe hare, willow ptarmigan and fish. Preliminary results indicate similar or lower levels of mercury for the animals collected, as compared to levels measured for the same species between 1989 and 1991. Laboratory analyses of other metals are ongoing. Additional species will be collected during the summer of 2014 to expand the scope of wildlife sampling. This project will build local capacity for contaminants monitoring in Kuujjuaraapik as well as provide relevant temporal trends information for sub-Arctic Nunavik, a region undergoing significant ecosystem change.

Key Messages

  • Tissues of ringed seal, snowshoe hare, willow ptarmigan, caribou, brook trout and whitefish were collected near Kuujjuaraapik by local hunters in the winter of 2014 for analysis of metals.

  • Total mercury concentrations were generally low (<0.5 µg·g-1 wet weight) in the fish and wildlife samples, although higher levels were measured in ringed seal liver and caribou kidney.

  • Preliminary results for the winter animal samples show total mercury concentrations that are similar to or lower than those measured in the same species from 19891991 for the environmental assessment of the Great Whale hydro-electric project.

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Niqiit Avatittinni Committee

Project Leader: Co-chairs of Nunavut Environmental Contaminants Committee (NECC)

Allison Dunn, Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC), Iqaluit
Phone: 867-975-5280
Email: Allison.Dunn@aandc.aadnc.gc.ca

Romani Makkik, Department of Social and Cultural Development, Nunavut
Phone: 867-975-4926
Email: rmakkik@tunngavik.com

Project Team:

  • Natalie Plato, AANDC, Iqaluit, NU
  • Simon Smith, AANDC, Ottawa, ON
  • Wanda Joy and Linnea Ingebrigtson, GN-Health, Iqaluit, NU
  • Zoya Martin, Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Iqaluit, NU
  • Lilianne Arsenault, Jamessee Moulton, Janelle Kennedy, GN-Environment, Iqaluit, NU
  • Paddy Aqiatusuk, Resolute Bay Hunters and Trappers Association, Resolute, NU
  • Jamal Shirley, Nunavut Research Institute (NRI), Iqaluit, NU
  • Eric Loring, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, Ottawa, ON
  • Andrew Dunford, NTI, Iqaluit, NU

Northern Regions Included in the Study: Nunavut

Project Duration: 2012-2014


Project Summary (2013-2014)

The Nunavut Environmental Contaminants Committee (NECC) was struck in May 2000 to provide a forum to review and discuss, through a social-cultural lens, Nunavut-based NCP-funded projects and proposals seeking NCP funding.  Through its social-cultural review of all Nunavut-based NCP proposals, the committee ensures northern and Inuit interests are being served by scientific research conducted in Nunavut.  In addition, the NECC aims to serve as a resource to Nunavummiut for long-range contaminants information in Nunavut.

Synopsis (2012-2013):

The Niqiit Avatittinni Committee (NAC) was struck in May 2000 to provide a forum to review and discuss, through a social-cultural lens, Nunavut-based NCP-funded projects and proposals seeking NCP funding. Through its social-cultural review of all Nunavut-based NCP proposals, the committee ensures northern and Inuit interests are being served by scientific research conducted in Nunavut.

In addition, the NAC aims to serve as a resource to Nunavummiut for long-range contaminants information in Nunavut. After a year of inactivity the NAC was reinvigorated in November 2012. New and existing members were solicited to participate in the NAC’s social-cultural review of 2013-14 NCP proposals. The NAC conducted a thorough social-cultural review of 23 Nunavut-based proposals and made contact with each principal investigator regarding concerns and questions raised during our social-cultural review. The NAC also provided feedback to various NCP researchers on their plain language summary reports. The NAC’s NTI co-chair attended the April 2012 NCP Management Committee meeting in Ottawa and both co-chairs attended the October 2012 MC meeting in Whitehorse.

Key Messages

  • Through its social-cultural review of all Nunavut-based NCP proposals, the Niqiit Avatittinni committee ensures northern and Inuit interests are being served by scientific research conducted in Nunavut.
  • The NAC aims to serve as a resource to Nunavummiut for long-range contaminants information in Nunavut.

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Impacts of Global Change and Industry on Methylmercury Exposures and Inuit Health

Project Leader

Tom Sheldon, Nunatsiavut Government

Tel: (709) 922-2588, Fax: (709) 922-1040

Email: tom_sheldon@nunatsiavut.com

Project Team

Community Research Advisory Committees of Rigolet, Northwest River, and Happy Valley-Goose Bay/Mud Lake; Rodd Laing and Michele Wood, Nunatsiavut Government; Trevor Bell and Brad de Young, Memorial University; Chris Furgal, Trent University; Zou Zou Kuzyk, University of Manitoba; Elsie Sunderland, Amina Schartup and Ryan Calder, Harvard University; Robert Mason and Prentiss Balcom, University of Connecticut

Abstract

A community-based monitoring program was initiated to assess seasonal and inter-annual variability in mercury (Hg) and methylmercury (MeHg) concentrations in freshwater tributaries flowing into Lake Melville. This program was established to provide more localized data to our ongoing work of identifying sources of Hg and MeHg in the Lake Melville system. As results to date show a source at the western end of Lake Melville, three major tributaries feeding the Lake at this region were chosen for further monitoring: the Churchill River, Goose River and North West River. Sampling began in winter of 2014 and samples have not yet been analyzed.

Work on a Human Health Risk Assessment was initiated through the implementation of a seasonally-stratified food-frequency questionnaire process. The questionnaire, designed to identify magnitudes and frequencies of country food consumed from Lake Melville by Inuit, was completed through an interview process with local research assistants by 240 Inuit living in Rigolet, North West River and Happy Valley-Goose Bay, representing an approximate 10% sample of the population. The same survey will be conducted in June to capture the spring seal hunt and again in September to capture the summer net fishing season, and results will be corroborated using hair Hg biomarkers.

Key Messages

  • This research is part of an ongoing multi-year program to better understand the origins and presence of methylmercury (MeHg) in Lake Melville, Labrador. The program uses community-based monitoring and the integration of local knowledge with science to help us understand the origins and presence of MeHg in Lake Melville through monitoring of seal and fish tissue, sea water and lake sediment.

  • In 2013-2014, we developed and initiated a Human Health Risk Assessment (HHRA) designed to determine if there is a link between the amount and types of fish and seal that are eaten by Inuit living on Lake Melville, and the levels of mercury to which they are exposed. This included a dietary survey which covered winter consumption of country foods, particularly seal and fish. The HHRA will continue with two more rounds of dietary surveys (Spring and Summer) and hair sampling to test for MeHg exposure (Spring and Summer).

  • We continued the testing of fresh water feeding Lake Melville to better identify and understand the sources of mercury and MeHg in the Lake Melville ecosystem.

  • The data collected from the ongoing Lake Melville research program will enable us to develop a mechanistic model for mercury cycling in Lake Melville that relates changes in inputs from atmospheric deposition and riverine inflows to concentrations in fish and seal.

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Community-Based Monitoring of Arctic Char in Nunatsiavut: Increasing Capacity, Building Knowledge

Project Leader:

Rodd Laing, Research Manager, Nunatsiavut Government, Nain
Tel: (709)-922-2567; Fax: (709)-922-2931; Email: rodd.laing@nunatsiavut.com

Derek Muir, Environment and Climate Change Canada, Aquatic Contaminants
Research Division, Burlington
Tel: (905) 319-6921; Fax: (905) 336-6430; E-mail: derek.muir@canada.ca

Marlene Evans, Environment and Climate Change Canada, Aquatic Contaminants
Research Division, Saskatoon
Tel: (306) 975-5310; Fax: (306) 975-5143; E-mail: marlene.evans@canada.ca

Project Team:

Tom Sheldon, Dorothy Angnatok, Liz Pijogge and Carla Pamak, Nunatsiavut Government, Nunatsiavut; Joey Angnatok, Community of Nain; Aullak, sangilivallianginnatuk (Going off, Growing strong) Youth Program; Environment and Climate Change Canada

Project duration: 2014- present


Project Summary (2016-2017)

Recently, Labrador Inuit have experienced a drastic shift in their consumption of traditional food moving from a diet consisting of mostly caribou to one that includes an increased amount of ringed seals and sea-run char. In an effort to help address this situation, a social fishing enterprise was started by the Nunatsiavut Government, distributing 12,000 pounds of Arctic char to the community freezers within Nunatsiavut. This study is entering its third year as a community-based monitoring project that has expanded on previous Northern Contaminants Program work around contaminant trends in sea-run char within Nunatsiavut. This year, twenty Arctic char will be captured at two locations, Nain and Saglek Fjord, just before they return inland from feeding in the sea. The fish will be caught and processed by local community members with support from staff at the Nain Research Centre, including the Northern Contaminants Researcher. Community members will receive payment for their contribution to this research program. The samples will then be shipped to the Aquatic Contaminants Research Division of Environment Canada in Saskatoon for analysis. Information will be used for a variety of purposes, such as providing necessary information for dietary advice and understanding contaminant loads and how they are changing as a result climate change and increased industrial development.


Synopsis (2015-2016)

Abstract:

Ringed seals and sea-run arctic char continue to make up a large portion of the diet of Labrador Inuit as a result of the decline in population of the George River caribou herd and subsequent ban on hunting of the herd. Given the importance of arctic char to both the diet of ringed seals and Labrador Inuit, monitoring of these fish in Nunatsiavut is essential. This community-based monitoring project continues to expand on previous NCP work on contaminant trends in sea-run char conducted by Environment Canada, including a capacity building component and an additional sampling location that has now been sampled for two years. Twenty fish were captured at two locations, Nain and Saglek Fjord, just before the fish returned inland from feeding in the ocean. The char were caught and processed by local community members, with support from staff at the Nain Research Centre, Parks Canada and Nunatsiavut Conservation Officers. The data from this project will be used for a variety of purposes such as providing needed information for dietary advice, understanding and determining how contaminant loads are changing as a result of regional changes being experienced due to climate change and increased industrial development.

Key Messages:

  • A regionally led community-based monitoring program sampling arctic char, while building capacity and addressing contaminant concerns of Labrador Inuit, and providing valuable data to the NCP.
  • Staff at the Nain Research Centre travelled to the Environment and Climate Change Canada lab in Burlington, Ontario to see how samples were processed and analyzed, creating a better overall understanding of the research process associated with this project.
  • Continued progress towards addressing the recommendations of the ArcticNet IRIS report that community-based monitoring of arctic char should exist to ensure the population is monitored and healthy for consumption
  • This project is a result of collaboration between harvesters, community members, youth, Conservation Officers, Parks Canada, Environment Canada and staff of the Nain Research Centre.

Synopsis (2014-2015)

Abstract:

The diet of Labrador Inuit has shifted recently in the past 5 years from a diet consisting of mostly caribou to one that includes an increased amount of ringed seals and sea-run char. This shift in diet is due to the drastic reduction of the George River Caribou herd and subsequent ban on hunting of the herd imposed by the Newfoundland and Labrador Government during winter 2013. This community-based monitoring project expanded on previous NCP work on contaminant trends in sea-run char conducted by Environment Canada, including a capacity building component and an additional sampling location. Twenty fish were captured at two locations, Nain and Saglek Fjord, just before they returned inland from feeding in the ocean. The char were caught and processed by local community members, with support from staff at the Nain Research Centre, Parks Canada and Nunatsiavut Conservation Officers. The data from this project will be used for a variety of purposes including providing needed information for dietary advice, understanding contaminant loads and how they are changing as a result climate change and increased industrial development.

Key Messages:

  • A regionally led community-based monitoring program was established, sampling arctic char, while building capacity and addressing contaminant concerns of Labrador Inuit
  • A result of collaboration of harvesters, community members, youth, Conservation Officers, Parks Canada, Environment Canada and staff of the Nain Research Centre.
  • Begins to address the recommendations of the ArcticNet IRIS report that community-based monitoring of arctic char should exist to ensure the population is monitored and healthy for consumption

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Mercury in Fish from Old Crow

Project Leader:

David Frost, Vuntut Gwitchin Government, Tel: (867) 966 3261 ext 222,  Email fwman@vgfn.net

Project Team Members: 

Mary Gamberg, Gamberg Consulting;  Mike Suitor and Nathan Millar, Yukon Government; Xiaowa Wang and Derek Muir, Environment Canada.

Abstract

This project measured mercury levels in seven commonly harvested fish species from the Old Crow area, to determine whether they continue to be healthy food choices for northerners.  The fish were collected by traditional harvesters processed by community members with the assistance of an experienced contaminant researcher.  Samples are currently being analyzed. Results of the project will be presented to the community at a public meeting and in a written report including a plain language summary, anticipated for the fall of 2015.

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Variable fish mercury concentrations in the Dehcho: effects of catchment control and invertebrate community composition

Project Leaders:

Dr. Heidi Swanson, Assistant Professor, Department of Biology, University of Waterloo, Waterloo
Tel: (519) 888-4567; Fax: (519) 746-0614; Email: heidi.swanson@uwaterloo.ca

George Low, Dehcho First Nations, Hay River
Email: geobarbgeo@hotmail.com

Project Team:

Dean Homan, Liidlii Kue First Nation; Priscilla Canadien, Deh Gah Gotie First Nation; Chief Gladys Norwegian, Jean Marie River First Nation; Mike Lo, Dehcho AAROM; Dr. Brian Branfireun, Western University; Dr. Leanne Baker, University of Waterloo

Duration: 2016-present


Project Summary (2016-2017)

Fish are a central part of the traditional diet and culture of the First Nations of the Dehcho region in the Northwest Territories. As such, mercury levels in fish are of concern to this population. In the Dehcho region, some lakes contain fish that show an increasing trend in mercury levels over time, whereas in other lakes, fish mercury levels appear to be stable. Furthermore, mercury levels have been reported to be above human consumption guidelines or well below, depending on the lake. Results from research conducted over the last three years on eight lakes in the region indicates that the differences in fish mercury levels across lakes are not adequately explained by expected factors such as fish age, size, growth rates, or concentrations of mercury in water. As such, more detailed analyses of lake ecology and physical environment is required to explain why fish mercury levels vary significantly between lakes and how climate change and resource development may affect these levels. This project will study four lakes in two different landscapes in the Dehcho region to investigate if differences in fish mercury levels between lakes can be explained by the type of invertebrates, the level of mercury in invertebrates, and/or differences in geology and water flow patterns.

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Contaminants concentrations in traditional country food from the Eclipse Sound and dietary exposure in Pond Inlet, Nunavut: Science and local knowledge assessing a short-term and local baseline of the risks to human health

Project Leaders:

James Simonee, Community-based researcher in Pond Inlet, Pond Inlet, NU
Tel: (867) 899-6050; Cell: 867-222-3335; Email: j93simonee@gmail.com

Project Team:

Vincent L’Hérault, ARCTIConnexion and Université du Québec à Rimouski, Québec;Marlene Evans, Environment and Climate Change Canada, Water Science and Technology Directorate, Saskatoon; Derek Muir, Environment and Climate Change Canada, Water Science and Technology Directorate, Burlington; Gary Stern, Department of Environment and Geography, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg; Chris Furgal, Indigenous Environmental Studies Program, Trent University, Peterborough; Heidi Swanson, Department of Biology, University of Waterloo, Waterloo; Pierre-Yves Daoust, Atlantic Veterinarian College, University of Prince Edward Island, Charlottetown

Duration: 2016- present


Project Summary (2016-2017)

Balancing the benefits of traditional country food for Inuit health and culture with the associated risks of the utilization of country food containing contaminants is not an easy task. Two key components of determining the level of risk are to i) quantify the actual concentration of various contaminants in food species for different organs, and ii) determine the exposure levels of the community to contaminants by investigating dietary habits and choices. Working in the community of Pond Inlet (Mittimatalik), the goal of this project is to address these two components by developing a novel research framework combining contaminants research with Inuit knowledge led by a local researcher and hunter. This project will also involve a team of mentors, including high-profile Northern Contaminants Program-funded researchers, to provide year-long mentorship and training opportunities that will build research skills required to address wildlife/food/human contaminants issues for the benefit of the community. The project will span three years with Year 1 focused on researching contaminants concentrations in sea-run Arctic char and ringed seal and conducting local interviews with Elders/hunters. Year 2 will involve researching contaminant concentrations in narwhals and conducting a community survey on dietary choices and risk perception pertaining to contaminants. Year 3 will include analysis of persistent organic pollutants and reporting on the global findings of the project in partnership with health authorities.

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An East Hudson Bay Network research initiative on regional metal accumulation in the marine food web

Project leaders:


Joel Heath, President, The Arctic Eider Society, St. John’s
Tel: (613) 366-2717; Email: heath.joel@gmail.com

John Chételat, Environment and Climate Change Canada, National Wildlife Research Centre, Carleton University, Ottawa
Tel: (613) 991-9835; Fax: (613) 998-0458

Project team:

Zou Zou Kuzyk , Centre for Earth Observation Science, University of Manitoba; Raymond Mickpegak, Sakkuq Landholding Corp., Kuujjuaraapik; Lucassie Arragutainaq , Hunters and Trappers Association, Sanikiluaq; Pauloosie Kasudluak, Inukjuak; Annie Kasudluak, Amiturvik Landholding Corp., Umiujaq; George Lameboy, Cree Nation of Chisasibi

Project Duration: 2015- present


Project Summary (2016-2017)

Communities in East Hudson Bay are concerned about ecosystem changes observed in recent decades, particularly related to sea-ice conditions, and also about potential impacts of contaminants from long-range atmospheric transport and regional human activities. The East Hudson Bay Network (EHBN), a community-driven research network, has been established to measure and better understand large-scale cumulative environmental impacts in East Hudson Bay. Building on EHBN collaborations and activities in five communities (i.e. Sanikiluaq, Kuujjuaraapik, Inukjuak, Umiujaq, Chisasibi), this project will collect new and critical information on contaminants, specifically metals, to provide a regionally integrated perspective on metal exposure in the East Hudson Bay marine environment. The five communities will sample coastal bioindicator species (i.e. blue mussel, common eider). Offshore bioindicators (i.e. ringed seal, herring gull, plankton, fish) will also be collected in Kuujjuaraapik and Sanikiluaq. These locally important bioindicators of metal accumulation will be used to characterize geographic and habitat-specific variation (e.g. coastal vs. offshore zones) in East Hudson Bay. Community-driven execution of biological collections combined with ecosystem measurements on sea ice and water will allow for more integrated research in the context of environmental change.


Synopsis (2015-2016)

Abstract:

Communities in East Hudson Bay are concerned about ecosystem changes observed in recent decades, particularly related to sea-ice and oceanographic conditions. Additionally, communities are concerned about the potential impacts of contaminants from long-range atmospheric transport and regional human activities. A community-driven research networkthe East Hudson Bay Network (EHBN)has been established to measure and better understand large-scale cumulative environmental impacts in East Hudson Bay. Building on EHBN collaborations and activities in five communities (Sanikiluaq, Kuujjuaraapik, Inukjuak, Umiujaq, Chisasibi), this NCP project is generating new information on contaminants (specifically metals) that provide a regionally-integrated perspective on metal exposure in the East Hudson Bay marine environment. The five communities are sampling coastal bioindicator species (blue mussel, common eider) annually for three years in order to understand and quantify metal accumulation levels in the coastal ecosystem. Offshore bioindicators (ringed seal, herring gull, plankton, fish) are additionally being collected from Kuujjuaraapik and Sanikiluaq. These locally-important bioindicators of metal accumulation will be used to characterize geographic and habitat-specific variation (coastal and offshore zones) in East Hudson Bay. Community-driven execution of biological collections as well as parallel ecosystem measurements on sea ice and water will allow for more integrated research in the context of environmental change.

Key messages:

  • In the first year of this project (2015), blue mussels, common eiders, ringed seals, and herring gull eggs were collected by community team members in East Hudson Bay
  • Tissues were analyzed for levels of mercury and other metals (such as lead and cadmium)
  • Information on the project and specific animal collections has been posted on a web-based platform called Interactive Knowledge Mapping Platform

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Mercury in Seaweed and Lichens from the Home Range of the Qamanirjuaq Caribou

Project Leader:

Mary Gamberg, Gamberg Consulting, Whitehorse, Yukon.
Tel: (867) 334-3360; E-mail : mary.gamberg@gmail.com.

Project Team:

Jamie Bell, Nunavut Arctic College, Arviat; Kreuger and Keenan Lindell, Arviat;
Jamal Shirley, Nunavut Research Institute, Iqaluit

Project Duration: 2016- present


Project Summary (2016-2017)

Qamanirjuaq caribou show higher mercury concentrations than many other Arctic caribou herds.  Generally, mercury in caribou is attributed to lichen consumption; however local Elders have observed the Qamanirjuaq caribou consuming seaweed from the seashore. Seaweed is another dietary source known to accumulate some metals and, as such, may be an additional source of mercury for the caribou. This project is designed to explore traditional knowledge held by hunters/Elders from the Kivalliq region regarding caribou consumption of seaweed, and to use this knowledge in designing protocols for seaweed collection in the five communities of the Kivalliq region. Lichens will also be collected and tested for mercury levels. Elder interviews, collection of samples, and presentation of results to each community will be conducted by two young students of the Environmental Technology Program at Arctic College in Iqaluit. This project is based on recommendation from the Northern Contaminants Program Management Committee. 

Mercury Levels in Food Fish Species in Lakes Used by Dehcho Community Members with a Focus on Choice and Risk Perception of Eating Traditional Country Food
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