Lake Whitefish Monitoring


Olivia Paco

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The Peace Athabasca Delta (PAD) is the largest freshwater delta in North America, has been designated as a wetland for international importance and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The PAD is located in northeastern Alberta and is home to numerous species of birds, mammals and fish. Additionally, the PAD is home to numerous Indigenous communities who have occupied the delta for generations, using its resources for sustenance. Lake whitefish are one key subsistence food source for Indigenous communities that live on the PAD. In recent years, Elders, Fishers and community members have noticed a decline in the meat quality of the lake whitefish, specifically meat that appears ‘mushier’. Residents of the communities are concerned with the ecological changes they currently see in the PAD (potentially due to human/industrial development upstream) and worry that if changes persist, the ecological health of the delta will deteriorate. The goal of this project was to continue the monitoring of lake whitefish in the PAD in collaboration with local Indigenous communities, the Government of Alberta, and Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC). Analyzing fish health can give an indication of overall aquatic health and provide information on whether the health of the lake whitefish is changing. Samples were collected in fall and winter, starting in 2020 until the present. My work focused on analyzing the fall 2021 - winter 2022 samples, to add this information to the fish monitoring efforts. The samples were collected and sent to our collaborators at ECCC, after which they were transported to Western University, where they were kept at –20C until analysis. At Western, I analyzed the sample levels of tissue water, protein, and lipid, following established protocols. The findings from the current research will be compiled with data from recent years and shared with community members to help the communities and research better assess the health of fish in the PAD.

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