Beluga health and food borne parasites in the Inuvialuit Settlement Region

Regions: Inuvialuit Settlement Region

Tags: physical sciences, traditional knowledge, beluga whale, marine mammals, parasites

Principal Investigator: Jenkins, Emily J (4)
Licence Number: 15813
Organization: University of Saskatchewan
Licenced Year(s): 2018 2017 2016 2015
Issued: Dec 22, 2015

Objective(s): To assess the overall health of beluga in the Inuvialuit Settlement Region, and compare to southern populations; to determine which animals, and which tissues, harbour parasites transmissible to people through food-borne routes; and, to assess and communicate risks in a culturally appropriate and timely manner to local residents, harvesters, territorial public health and wildlife health personnel, and the general scientific community.

Project Description: The objectives of this research project are to assess the overall health of beluga in the ISR (Inuvialuit Settlement Region), and compare to southern populations; to determine which animals, and which tissues, harbour parasites transmissible to people through food-borne routes; and, to assess and communicate risks in a culturally appropriate and timely manner to local residents, harvesters, territorial public health and wildlife health personnel, and the general scientific community.

The research team will work with local hunters and DFO biologists to collect the following samples:
1) Harvested beluga will be measured and weighed.
2) Blood samples will be collected at the base of the tail.
3) A complete examination of the viscera will be conducted and sections of each organ will be collected for microscopic examination, which will be done at the CQSAS, Université de Montréal, St Hyacinthe.
4) The lungs will be examined for lungworms.
5) Samples will be collected and tested for parasites (Toxoplasma and Trichinella) at the Zoonotic Parasite Research Unit, University of Saskatchewan, and the Centre for Food and Animal Parasitology, Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Saskatoon. Samples positive for Toxoplasma will be sent to the Health Canada food testing laboratory in Ottawa for confirmation and parasite genetic characterization.

The research team will work with local hunters who harvest country foods from beluga. The research team will help determine the overall health status of the beluga population in the ISR, as well as what animals and tissues are likely to harbour food borne parasites that may transmit to people.

The research team will share summarized results at Joint Fisheries Management Committee meetings and/or Hunter Trapper Committee meetings. The team will work with public health and wildlife officials in the Northwest Territories to develop appropriate knowledge translation materials in the form of pamphlets and posters, as well as local radio and community meetings, if there is interest from the community.


The fieldwork for this study will be conducted from July 6, 2016 to July 30, 2016.