Fish otolith chemistry for environmental assessments

The purpose of this project was to determine value of Fish Otolith chemistry as a tool for environmental assessment in Yukon as it may relate to mining sites and improve aquatic wildlife protection. This technique has been developed over the last decades and applied at different locations, but not yet in the Yukon.

The goals of this project were two-fold, 1) apply Fish Otoliths Chemistry technique at the Keno Hill District and 2) share knowledge and discuss the results and potential application with local community, scientific community, regulators and decision-makers.

Project Overview

The overall goal of this project was to assess, in three stages, the use of fish otolith microchemistry as a potentially new monitoring tool to be applied around Yukon mine sites. High quality environmental assessments are critical to sound land and water use management as part of all mining development. Improvement of the environmental assessment and prediction of potential impact of land use activities rely on the development of scientific tools and techniques. Fish otolith chemistry integrates information on contaminant exposure and life history of both individual fish and populations. This technique affords a unique opportunity: otoliths consist of a calcium carbonate structure in the inner ear of fish deposited in daily to annual increments. They have been used to determine age and life history events of fish and fish populations. As otoliths are metabolically stable, the contaminant levels within their annular structure can provide a temporal record of exposure of the fish to trace metals and can be used to get baseline data information required for environmental assessments and reconstruct historical exposure for the further protection of aquatic wildlife. As new mining projects are developing in the Yukon, it is believed that Yukon would benefit in establishing a fish otolith chemistry technique and database with the local population, which in turn gave rise to this project.  

Project team and funders
Norman Halden, Department of Geological Sciences, University of Manitoba  
Amelie Janin, NSERC Industrial research Chair  
Jody McKenzie-Grieve,  Fisheries Protection Program, Fisheries and Oceans Canada  
Panseok Yang,  Department of Geological Sciences, University of Manitoba  
Zhe Song,  Department of Geological Sciences, University of Manitoba  
David Petkovich,  Access Consulting Group 
Yukon Mine Research Consortium (YMRC): Alexco Environmental Group, Capstone Mining Corp, Casino Mining Corp, Selwyn Chihong Ltd. and Victoria Gold Corp. 
Yukon Fish and Wildlife Enhancement Trust 
Na-Cho Nyak Dun First Nation 
University of Manitoba  
Access Consulting Group 
Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada 
Yukon Environment 
Capstone Mining Corp