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.

Updated 2015-09-11

i. Determine mercury, metals and persistent organic contaminant pollutants (POPs) concentrations in lake trout harvested from two locations (West Basin near Hay River, East Arm at Lutsel K’e) and burbot harvested from one location (West Basin at Fort Resolution) in 2015 to further extend the long-term (1993-2013 (POPs) and 1993-2014 (mercury)) database. ii. Determine POPs trends in lake trout and burbot using our 1993-2014 data base. iii. Continue our investigations of mercury trends in predatory fish to include lakes in the Deh Cho, Great Bear Lake, and other lakes as opportunities arise. iv. Participate in and contribute information to AMAP expert work groups for trend monitoring for POPs and mercury. v. Integrate our mercury trend assessments with studies we are conducting in the western provinces as part of Canada’s Clear Air Regularly Agenda for its Mercury Science Assessment. vi. Work with communities in capacity building and training.

This is not a National Implementation Plan (NIP) project
Comments and additional information:

This study builds on earlier research conducted during 1993-1996 on Great Slave Lake under NCP and the Slave River under the 1989-1994 Slave River Monitoring Study.

Time frame

Project time span
1999 -
Data collection
1993 - 2015
Data processing
1993 - 2015
Data reporting
1993 - 2015

Contact information

Contact person
Marlene S. Evans
National Research Centre Environment Canada 11 Innovation Boulevard Saskatoon, Saskatchewan S7N 3H5 Canada
+1 306-975-5310
+1 306-975-5143
Other project contacts
Project contacts addresses: Derek Muir, National Water Research Institute, Environment Canada, Burlington, Ontario L7R 4A6; George Low, Hay River, NWT X0E 0R0. Rosy Bjornson, Fort Resolution, NWT X0E 0M0; Peter Unger, Lutsel K'e Wildlife Committee, Lutsel K'e, NWT Project contacts phone numbers: M. S. Evans, 306-975-5310 (W); Derek Muir, 905-319-6921; Mike Whittle, 905-336-4565; G.A. Stern, 204-984-6761; Lyle Lockhart; George Low 867-874-2331; Maurice Boucher, 867-394-4335; Brenda Parlee, 867-370-3051; Tim Heron, 867-872-4044; Glen Stephens, 867-669-2662 Project contacts fax numbers: M. S. Evans, 306-975-5143 Derek Muir, 905-336-6430 George Low, 867-874-6922 Rosy Bjornson, 867-394-4335 Peter Unger, 867-370-3197 M.S. Evans - Derek Muir - Mike Whittle - G.A. Stern - Lyle Lockhart - George Low - Brenda Parlee - Glen Stephens -

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
Additional information or further specification of types of data / information collected, species / tissues / organs sampled, etc.

Lake trout and northern pike muscle are being analyzed for POPs, metals and stable isotopes. Burbot liver is being analyzed for POPs while muscle is being analyzed for metals and stable isotopes.


Regions studied
Freshwater TDC
Freshwater TDC
Other areas
Great Slave Lake, NWT
Stations or areas where observations are made

Three sites are being examined on Great Slave Lake. One is Resolution Bay (Fort Resolution) at the outflow of the Slave River into Great Slave Lake. The second is in the East Arm, at Lutsel K'e and well removed from a direct Slave River influence. Lake trout also are being caught from the commercial fishery operating out of Hay River and near the outflow from Great Slave lake into the Mackenzie River.

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 be preparing summary reports for the community and will provide those data to AMAP. Data will be in the form of total PCBs, DDT, etc. Other data could be made available upon request. Data will be calculated as means for sites and times and fish species.
References to key publications (or planned publications) and data reports
Results are reported in the annual NCP reports. A paper is in progress on POPs trends in Great Slave Lake and a second overview paper based on historic data from the early 1990s. Other publications are below. 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 Evans, M. S., D. Muir, B. Brua, J. Keating, and X. Wang. 2013. Mercury trends in predatory fish in Great Slave Lake: the influence of temperature and other climate drivers. Envir. Sci. Technol. 47: 12793-12801. 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. Hungc, 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 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) 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. 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. 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 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 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. Lockhart W. L., G. A. Stern, G. Low, M. Hendzel, G. Boila, P. Roach, M. S. Evans, B. N. Billeck, J. DeLaronde, S. Friesen, K. Kidd, S. Atkins, D. C. G. Muir, M. Stoddart, G. Stephens, S. Stephenson, S. Harbicht, N. Snowshoe, B. Grey, S. Thompson, N. DeGraff . 2005 History of total mercury in edible muscle of fish from lakes in northern Canada. Science of the Total Environment 351-352:427-463. Evans, M. S. 2000. The large lake ecosystems of northern Canada. Aquatic Ecosystem Health and Management 3:65-79.
Samples/specimens archived in specimen banks?
Specimen banking information

Fish from the ongoing study are archived in NWRI-Saskatoon in addition to some fish from earlier research. Fish are stored intact at -40C. Fish which are being analyzed have had their appropriate tissues removed and the remainder homogenated. These homogenates also are in Saskatoon. Some fish from earlier studies and sample extracts are in Burlington (Whittle, Muir) and Winnipeg (Stern).

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.

Fish samples are sent to the National Hydrology Research Centre for initial examination, selection of fish to be analysed, and archiving. Fish are collected by northern community members. Selected fish are then sent to the National Water Research Institute for initial handling. Derek Muir is responsible for tissue preparation, extraction, and toxaphene analysis. Gary Stern analyzes the sample extracts for POPs including PCBs, DDT, dieldrin, etc. Mike Whittle conducts the coplanar analyses and prepares the samples for possible future dioxin/furan analyses. Lyle Lockhart conducts the metal analyses (mercury, arsenic, and selenium). Carbon and nitrogen isotope analyses are conducted at NWRI-Saskatoon. contact researchers for further details.

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

These laboratories participate in QA/QC studies, including those organized by NCP. Contact researchers for additional details.

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

Indigeneous communities participate in the studies including collecting the fish, discussing study design, inviting researchers to present results in the community, and helping to inform community members of the results.

Other related projects

This project is related to Gary Stern's monitoring studies of burbot at Fort Good Hope on the Mackenzie River. Also to An investigation of factors affecting high mercury concentrations in predatory fish in the Mackenzie River Basin.Project Number: 77

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