The Bio- Magnification of Mercury within Fish Species of the Deh Cho and Their Varying Levels Among Lakes
Principal Investigator: Swanson, Heidi (6)
Licence Number: 15347
Organization: University of Waterloo
Licenced Year(s): 2017 2016 2016 2015 2014 2013
Issued: Aug 08, 2013
Project Team: Heidi Swanson (Lead Researcher, University of Waterloo), George Low (Project Coordinator, Deh Cho First Nations), Mike Low (Technical Support, Deh Cho First Nations)

Objective(s): To determine why fish mercury levels vary among lakes in the Deh Cho region; to identify best predictors of fish mercury levels; and, to determine which fish have the lowest levels of mercury and highest levels of micro-nutrients and fatty acids.

Project Description: The objectives of this research project are to: 1) determine why fish mercury levels vary among lakes in the Deh Cho region; 2) identify best predictors of fish mercury levels; and, 3) determine which fish have the lowest levels of mercury and highest levels of micro-nutrients and fatty acids.

The methods for this project include two parts, first is the collection of food web data from each lake, which includes collecting phytoplankton, periphyton, zooplankton, benthic inverts and fish samples; second the samples will be analyzed in a laboratory for stable isotopes and total mercury. Each spring the previous year’s results will be reported back during community meetings. Collection of the samples will involve hiring local community members with knowledge of the lake and fishery to go out with the researcher and assist in the collection. The collection of samples from the lakes will occur during the fall of each year. Dependence on the local fishers will be crucial to catching the required amount of fish per each lake.

There will be lots of opportunities for work and local involvement at all levels of the project design; this is a community based initiative and first nation members will be involved at every step. Specifically two workers (monitors) from each community will be hired to assist in any research and camp work; the monitors will be hired to help in choosing net locations, setting fish nets and sampling of the fish. As well all fish will go back to the community and any large feasts or events will be catered by the community.

The research data will also benefit the communities of Jean Marie River, Fort Simpson, Kakisa and Trout Lake which have been affected by rising mercury levels; harvesting fish is a large part of the dene culture and with the rising levels less fish is being eaten.

Communication of the results back to the communities is the most important part of this research. After each field season is completed and samples have been analyzed, the results will be reported to the related community (s) in plane language at a spring community meeting. In 2013 a "Return to Country Foods" workshop will be held in Trout Lake and Kakisa to update communities on the work that is being done.

The fieldwork for this study will be conducted from August 7, 2013 to October 31, 2013.