Water and Aquatic Sciences Research Program

Tracing and Quantifying the Exposure of Aboriginal Communities to Aquaculture-Derived Contaminants through Traditional Marine Foods

Partners: Three First Nations Communities, Health Canada (FIHNB)

Summary: With the rapid expansion of the aquaculture industry in British Columbia there has been increasing public concern about environmental impacts. Most research has focused on the effects of waste organic matter on the sediment near net pens, but little is known about far-field effects. Another emerging issue is the fate and effects of toxic chemicals, including both intentionally-used pesticides and antimicrobials and a number of persistent organic pollutants that are unintentionally introduced in feed. The focus of our study is to trace, quantify and model the far-field fate and effects of farm waste, and the role this material may play in transferring contaminants from fish farms into the coastal food web, with a particular focus on the traditional shellfish and benthic finfish resources of BC's First Nations. In partnership with First Nations groups in three broadly separated areas on the coast of BC, we use unique biochemical characteristics of farm waste to track the organic matter as it is deposited on beaches, consumed by clams and other invertebrates, and passed up to benthic fish in the coastal food web. We will measure the levels and pathways of contaminants in these species throughout our partner First Nations' territories, and document the patterns of consumption of these species within local communities. We will combine all this information to evaluate whether farm waste serves as an important vector for transfer of contaminants from fish farms into wild biota, and subsequently into human populations. This research will benefit Canada's First Nations by supporting the safe and sustainable use of traditional foods and by building the capacity in partner communities to manage this issue into the future. In addition, it will benefit all Canadians by working toward ensuring the sustainability of salmon aquaculture.


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