The oilsands seem to be having some effect on the wildlife living in the area.
Wildlife Toxicologist with Environment and Climate Change Canada Dr. Philippe Thomas traveled to Fort Chipewyan earlier this year – where he took samples from the wildlife discovering some contaminants in their systems.
Thomas tells Mix News he believes these toxins aren’t causing any immediate issues.
“They don’t warrant, for the time being, consumption advisories for people that consume them, they’re some side effects on certain points like reproduction and such, but nothing at this point that is too concerning.”
Thomas says other areas in Canada, specifically around the Great Lakes, are actually having a more damaging effect on the wildlife. In these areas, animals and fish have been found to have traces of mercury.
The plans moving forward is to keep monitoring the wildlife in the area.
“Determining whether or not those levels are going up or if they’re coming down is keeping a track on those trends, so if we see them going up then we start discussing with industry and other groups to try and come up with mitigation measures.”
During the visit, Thomas got help from local Indigenous groups, such as the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation and Mikisew Cree First Nation.
He notes the information and skills they have is really beneficial for their testing.
“They’ve got very useful knowledge that helps us in identifying where we should monitor, where we should focus our efforts, when we should do that, what species we should be looking at – so all this information, changes they’ve seen on the land over generations is really useful.”
The idea is to still work with both First Nations as they continue monitoring the wildlife.
Meanwhile, Thomas’ trip to Fort Chipewyan is now part of Environment and Climate Change Canada’s new video series – “Inside Environment and Climate Change Canada Science in Action.”
The series shows the relationship the team has with the Indigenous people, the monitoring results, and more.