Mercury is a Priority for FWCP and its Partners
The FWCP is filling information gaps about mercury levels in fish in the Dinosaur and Williston Reservoirs, and helping bring First Nations and local stakeholders together to address this important issue.
The FWCP recognizes that mercury levels in fish caught in Williston and Dinosaur Reservoirs are a priority concern for local First Nations and others.
What is the FWCP’s Role?
Our role is to facilitate dialogue among partners, including engagement with First Nations, and oversee the scientific collection of relevant data. We do not have a mandate to specifically address human health issues related to fish consumption but we are committed to working with others in the region to fill information gaps and support a process to provide information to agencies responsible for human health.
In 2015, the FWCP:
- Undertook “opportunistic” fish sampling in order to begin data collection. Seventy-nine fish were sampled “opportunistically” and have been tested for mercury, selenium and heavy metals by an internationally-accredited laboratory. A final report on the results is due in March 2016 and will be available here.
- Carried out initial communications with Northern Health and local First Nations, including the First Nations Health Authority.
- Brought interested partners together and formed a Mercury Technical Working Group to advise our Peace Regional Board on technical issues related to mercury.
- Worked with the Mercury Technical Working Group, our Peace Regional Board and First Nations’ Working Group, to develop a comprehensive plan to collect and analyze fish tissue samples in the Williston and Dinosaur Reservoirs for mercury analysis starting in 2016.
- Finalized a 2015 Peace Williston Mercury Report as part of ongoing mercury investigations.
- Issued a mercury update.
Our 2016 mercury work plan is being finalized and will be available here soon.
Why is the FWCP Involved?
Since 2008 the FWCP has worked closely with regional First Nations to determine how best to incorporate their interests and facilitate their partnership and participation in the FWCP. In 2012, the FWCP’s First Nation Working Group (FNWG) was established through a Memorandum of Understanding. The FNWG is responsible for ensuring First Nation considerations and input are included in FWCP planning and projects. We now have nine First Nations represented on the FNWG and our Regional Board.
The FWCP’s strategic planning process concluded in 2014 with the completion of a Peace Basin Plan and six Action Plans that will guide our work in our Peace Region over the next several years. This planning process confirmed mercury as a priority for the FWCP.
Participants in this planning process suggested that the FWCP is in an excellent position to initiate and lead a First Nation and multi-stakeholder, regional partnership to collect mercury samples and provide the results to relevant provincial agencies that could ultimately lead to an updated interpretation of the mercury advisory that is annually published in the provincial fishing regulations guide.
Mercury in the Environment
Mercury is found naturally in air, water, sediment, soil, plants, animals and fish. The creation of a new reservoir leads to the conversion of naturally occurring inorganic mercury in flooded soil and vegetation into methylmercury that can bio-accumulate in fish that prey on other fish. Over time the concentration of mercury in the reservoir returns back to its natural background level.
There are two main forms of mercury in the environment: 1) the elemental form (Hg) existing as a liquid and a gas and 2) the organic or methylmercury (MeHg) form, which is a more toxic form of mercury that is present in all animals. Methylmercury is the main form of mercury found in fish, which is why there are sometimes advisories for fish, but not for other animals.