Temporal trend studies of trace metals and halogenated organic contaminants (HOCs), including new and emerging persistent compounds, in Mackenzie River burbot, Fort Good Hope, NWT

Regions: Sahtu Settlement Area

Tags: contaminants, mercury, fish, traditional knowledge, metals, burbot

Principal Investigator: Stern, Gary (2)
Licence Number: 16294
Organization: University of Manitoba
Licenced Year(s): 2018
Issued: Apr 30, 2018
Project Team: Ashley Gaden (Project co-lead, University of Manitoba), Norman Pierrot (Community engagement contact, Fort Good Hope Renewable Resources Council), Liisa Jantunen (Research chemist, Environment and Climate Change Canada), Tom Harner (Senior research scientist, Environment and Climate Change Canada)

Objective(s): To determine the influence of diet on contaminant concentrations in current fish.

Project Description: The short-term goals are to determine if 2018 burbot contaminant concentrations: 1) remain below Health Canada guidelines (i.e. <0.5 ppm mercury per gram fish); and 2) are associated with dietary indicators to determine the influence of diet (via stable isotope ratios) on contaminant concentrations in current fish, although previous results suggested no association (Carrie et al. 2010); as well as to look for linkages between historical environmental/meteorological data with burbot contaminant data.

The long-term goals for this project are: 1) to determine if burbot contaminant concentrations indicate a 5% change over a 10-15 year period with a power of 80% and confidence level of 95%; and, 2) to work with the Fort Good Hope Renewable Resource Committee (FGH RRC) to identify additional priorities for research and/or monitoring, and to establish a robust communication strategy.

Upon arrangement with the FGH RRC, Ashley Gaden will travel to Fort Good Hope in the second half of 2018 to report upon project results and to consult with the Council their priorities within the scope of the project (e.g. research objectives, outreach, training in subsequent years of the project). This will also be an opportunity to discuss, in-person, the project design, methodology, and use of Indigenous Knowledge to holistically interpret the project results.

The research team will ask that the Fort Good Hope Renewable Resources Council put an announcement out to collect loche (whole fish). Individual fishermen will be invited to collect loche. Frozen fish will be shipped to the University of Manitoba for processing (e.g. measuring length and weight, tissue sub-sampling, sexing, aging). Analyses of mercury will be completed before March 31, 2018, but other metals analysis conducted at Analytical Chemistry Testing Labs (e.g. 36 in total including Pb, Cd, Se, As) may take an additional three to four months to complete (based on previous experience). Brominated and fluorinated compounds will be analyzed by Liisa Jantunen’s and Tom Harner’s labs. Stable isotope ratios of nitrogen and carbon will be analyzed at Laval Université.

The research team will be presenting project updates and results to the FGH RRC and the Sahtu Renewable Resources Board (SRRB) throughout the project lifecycle. Final contaminants data will also be presented to the Northwest Territories Regional Contaminants Committee. The team aim to inform these groups, as well as the community of Fort Good Hope at large, about the health and consumption safety of these loche.

The planning of a community consultation visit is underway. This in-person meeting would allow for the residents of Fort Good Hope to learn more about the project and provide input and questions. The team also welcome feedback from the FGH RRC and SRRB to evolve the project to meet their priorities for the management of renewable resources.

The research team are happy to engage with other groups (e.g. schools, Aurora College), as the FGH RRC sees fit both from a communications standpoint and a capacity-building standpoint. The team will provide short progress reports to FGH RRC, SRRB, Sahtu Land and Water Board and other interested organizations throughout the life cycle of the project through email.

The fieldwork for this study will be conducted from November 1, 2018 to December 31, 2018.