An investigation of factors affecting high mercury concentrations in predatory fish in the Mackenzie River Basin.

Updated 2000-06-28

1. Continue to investigate spatial and temporal patterns in mercury concentrations in fish in lakes in the Mackenzie River Basin with a focus on predatory fish in smaller lakes near Fort Simpson but also including Great Bear Lake 2. Assess temporal trends in mercury concentrations and influencing factors, e.g., climate change 3. Conduct sediment core studies as opportunities allow to characterize long-term trends in mercury deposition and productivity 4. Integrate the findings of this study with our mercury trend monitoring in Great Slave Lake and the western provinces.

This is not a National Implementation Plan (NIP) project

Time frame

Project time span
1999 -
Data collection
1999 - 2015
Data processing
1999 - 2015
Data reporting
1999 - 2015

Contact information

Contact person
Marlene S. Evans
National Research Centre Environment Canada 11 Innovation Boulevard Saskatoon, S7N 3H5 Canada
+1 306-975-5310
+1 306-975-5143
Other project contacts
Project contacts addresses: M. S. Evans, National Research Centre, Environment Canada, 11 Innovation Boulevard, Saskatoon S7N 3H5 D. Muir, National Research Centre, Environment Canada, 867 Lakeshore Drive, Burlington, ON L7R 4A6 S. Backus, National Research Centre, Environment Canada, 867 Lakeshore Drive, Burlington, ON L7R 4A6 George Low, Hay River, NWT Project contacts phone numbers: M. S. Evans, 306-975-5310 Derek Muir 905-319-6921 George Low 867-874-2331 Project contacts fax numbers: M. S. Evans, 306-975-5143; Lyle Lockhart 204-984-2404; George Low 867-874-6922; G. A. Stern 204-984-2404; Tog Jackson 905-336-6430; William Strachan 905-336-6430 Project contacts E-mails: M. S. Evans - Lyle Lockhart - George Low - G.A. Stern - Tog Jackson - William Strachan -

Parameters and Media

Parameter groups measured/observed/modelled
Biological effects
Climate change effects
Heavy metals
Persistent organic pollutants (POPs)
Media sampled/studied/modelled
Freshwater fish
Freshwater sediments
Additional information or further specification of types of data / information collected, species / tissues / organs sampled, etc.

Stable isotopes are being measured in all organisms. Trout and cisco from Great Bear are measured for flame retardants and metals as part of another study.


Regions studied
Freshwater TDC
Other areas
We are working on either side of the Mackenzie River.
Stations or areas where observations are made

Cli Lake, Little Doctor Lake, Willow Lake, Sibbeston Lake, McGill Lake, Deep Lake, Trout Lake, Kasika Lake, Tathlina Lake, Sanquez Lake, Ekali Lake, all in the Fort Simpson area. Also Great Bear Lake and Stark Lake east of Great Slave Lake. Study based on periodic collections and use of historic records.

Data availability

Are data archived or planned to be archived at an AMAP Thematic Data Centre?
Data centres
Freshwater TDC
If no (or only part of data are reported to a TDC), where and how are (other) data stored?
We will provide summary reports to the communities and these data can be made available to AMAP. A synthesis paper on the mercury studies is planned in the next year.
References to key publications (or planned publications) and data reports
Chételat, J., M. Amyot, P. Arp, J. M. Blais, D. Depew, S. van der Velden, C. A. Emmerton, M. Evans, M. Gamberg, N. Gantner, C. Girard, J. Graydon, J. Kirk, D. Lean, I. Lehnherr, D. Muir, M. Nasr, A. Poulain, M. Power, A. Rencz, P. Roach, G. Stern, H. Swanson. 2014. Mercury in freshwater ecosystems of the Canadian Arctic: Recent advances on its cycling and fate. Sci. Tot. Environ. 509-510: 67-90. doi:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2014.05.133 Depew,D. C., N. M. Burgess, M. R. Anderson, R. Baker, S. P. Bhavsar, R. A. Bodaly, C. S. Eckley, M. S. Evans, N. Gantner, J. A. Graydon, K. Jacobs, J. E. LeBlanc, V. L. St. Louis, and Linda M. Campbell. 2013. An overview of mercury concentrations in freshwater fish species: a national fish mercury dataset for Canada. Can. J. Fish. Aquat. Sci. 70: 1–16 (2013) Gewurtz, S. B., S. M. Backus, A. O. De Silva, L. Ahrens, A. Armellin, M. Evans, S. Fraser, M. Gledhil, P. Guerra, T. Harner, P. A. Helm , H. Hung, N. Khera, M. G. Kim, M. Kingf, S. C. Leec, R. J. Letcher, P. Martin, C. Marvin, D. J. McGoldrick, A. L. Myerse, M. Pelletier, J. Pomeroy, E. J. Reinere, M. Rondeau, M.Sauve, M. Sekela, M. Shoeib, D. W. Smith, S. A. Smyth, J. Struger, D. Spry, J. Syrgiannis, J. Waltho. 2013. Perfluoroalkyl Acids in the Canadian Environment: Multi-media Assessment of Current Status and Trends. Environment International 59:183-200 Douglas, T. A. L. Loseto, R. W. Macdonald, P.Outridge, A. Dommergue, A. Poulain, M. Amyot, T. Barkay, T.Berg, J. Chetelat, P. Constant, M. Evans, C. Ferrari, N . Gantner, M. S. Johnson, J. Kirk, N. Kroer, C. Larose, D. Lean, T. Nielsen, L. Poissant, S. Rognerud, H. Skov, S. Sørensen, F. Wang, S. Wilson and C. M. Zdanowicz. 2012. The fate of mercury in Arctic terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, a review. Environ. Chem. 2012, 9, 321–355. Rigét, F., B. Braune, A. Bignert, S. Wilson, J. Aars, M. Andersen, G. Asmund, A. Aubail, E. Born, M. Dam, R. Dietz, M. Evans, T. Evans, M.Gamberg, N. G., N. Green, H. Gunnlaugsdóttir, K. Kannan, R. Letcher, D. Muir, K.Ólafsdóttir , A. Renzoni, P.Roach, C.Sonne, G. Stern, Ø. Wiig. 2011. Temporal trends of Hg in Arctic biota, an update. Sci. Total. Environ. 409:3520-3526. doi:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2011.05.002 Gewurtz, D. J. McGoldrick, M. G. Clark, M. J. Keir, M. M. Malecki, M. Gledhill, M. Sekela, J. Syrgiannis, M. S. Evans, A. Armellin, J. Pomeroy, J. Waltho, and S. M. Backus. 2011. Spatial trends of polybrominated diphenyl ethers in Canadian fish and implications for long-term monitoring. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry. 59:183-200. Muir, D.C.G., X. Wang, F. Yang, N. Nguyen, T.A. Jackson, M.S. Evans, M. Douglas, G. Köck, S. Lamoureux, R. Pienitz, J.P. Smol, W.F. Vincent and A. Dastoor. 2009. Spatial Trends and Historical Deposition of Mercury in Eastern and Northern Canada Inferred from Lake Sediment Cores. Environmental Sci. and Technol. 43:4802-4809. DOI: 10.1021/es8035412 Jackson, T. A., D. M. Whittle, M. S. Evans, and D. C. G. Muir. 2008. Evidence for mass-independent and mass-dependent fractionation of the stable isotopes of mercury by natural processes in aquatic ecosystems. Applied Geochemistry. 23:547-571. Evans, M. S. D. Muir, W. L. Lockhart, G. Stern, M. Ryan, and Pat Roach. 2005. Persistent organic pollutants and metals in the freshwater biota of the Canadian Subarctic and Arctic: an overview. Science of the Total Environment 351-352:479-500. Evans M.S., L. Lockhart, L. Doetzel, G. Low G, D. Muir, K. Kidd, S. Stephens, J. Delaronde. 2005. Elevated mercury concentrations in fish in lakes in the Mackenzie River Basin: the role of physical, chemical, and biological factors. Science of the Total Environment 351-352:94-147.
Samples/specimens archived in specimen banks?
Specimen banking information

Past invertebrate collections and sediment cores are freeze dried and stored at -40C. Larger fish are partially dissected and remainder stored at -40C. Most archived samples reside at NWRI-Saskatoon.

Methods & Procedures

Procedures and methodology used for, e.g., sampling and sample storage, sample pretreatment, extraction and analysis, including which laboratories are involved, references to methods employed, etc.

Early studies were based on standard limnological sampling and analyses through the National Water Research Institute, the National Hydrology Research Centre (NHRC), and the Water Quality Laboratory. Currently eithre whole fish or subsamples of fish are provided by local community fisherman or collaborators. Mercury analyses are being conducted by Environment Canada as are stable stable isotope analyses. Flame retardant analyses are being conducted at NWRI. Details are provided in the scientific references.

QA/QC Information (what QA/QC procedures are implemented, laboratories involvment in QA/QC activities, model verification/validation routines, etc.)

The laboratories participate in such studies. NCP organizes comparative studies as part of its QA/QC program.

Additional Information

Is this a bi- AND multi-lateral project (i.e. a project involving cooperation between different countries)?
Indigenous AND traditional knowledge used in this project

Indigneous people participate in this study and provide information on these lakes. They also recommend lakes for further study.

Other related projects

Spatial and long-term trends in organic contaminants and metals in fish species important to the commercial, sports, and domestic fisheries of Great Slave Lake and the Slave River ecosystem. Project Number: 78

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