Victoria – Bull trout caught and tested by Treaty 8 First Nations in northern B.C. are so contaminated with mercury they are unsafe for human consumption, says a science study released today by the West Moberly and McLeod Lake First Nations.
Chiefs from the two First Nations brought 200 pounds of contaminated bull trout from the Crooked River system to the legislature lawn and held a press conference calling for the B.C. government to reverse its decision to approve the controversial $9 billion Site C dam.
“It’s been 50-plus years since the first backhoes disturbed the sediments on the Williston Reservoir, releasing methylmercury into the rivers and streams on Treaty 8 traditional territory – and it’s still here, contaminating our fisheries and endangering our health,” said Chief Derek Orr of McLeod Lake First Nation.
“Building the proposed Site C dam would increase the exposure to potentially higher levels of mercury measures in 3 more rivers and many streams that are important for the Aboriginal fisheries in the area,” said Chief Roland Willson of West Moberly First Nations. “By ramming through the Site C dam project in the face of negative findings by the government’s own Joint Review Panel, Premier Clark is giving us the impossible choice of sacrificing either our culture or our health. We are here to say that this choice stinks – and it’s high time the Premier smells it too. She can have her mercury-laden fish back. Let her figure out what to do with them. Because we can’t.”
To emphasize their message, the Chiefs displayed all of the contaminated fish at the Legislature during the press conference.
The study found that 98 percent of the Bull Trout samples had tissue mercury concentrations that exceeded the guideline of 0.1 mg/kg wet weight (ww), based on the consumption of approximately 1 kg of fish per week. This is the guideline that most closely approximates West Moberly and McLeod Lake fish consumption in accordance with cultural practices.
In addition, 37 percent of the Bull Trout also exceeded the Health Canada Maximum Contaminant Standard of 0.5 mg/1 kg ww.
The Joint Review Panel on Site C found that the dam would cause significant adverse effects on fishing opportunities and practices for First Nations, and that these effects cannot be mitigated. In addition, the Panel found that Site C would cause significant adverse effects on fish and fish habitat and significant adverse cumulative effects on fish.