Deformed Fish in Athabasca Blamed on Oil Sands

Deformed Fish in Athabasca Blamed on Oil Sands

Fish with deformities, lesions, tumours or cysts, and indicators of infection or disease were displayed yesterday in Edmonton.

The fish were collected from the lower Athabasca River, Athabasca Delta and Lake Athabasca. Local fishers note that the incidence of unhealthy fish within their catch has increased substantially over time. Robert Grandjambe Sr. and Jr., and Ray Ladouceur, fisherman from Fort Chipewyan, note that more fish of several different species are being caught with deformities, lesions and tumours.

David Schindler said the National Pollutant Release Inventory "shows that the oil sands industry is releasing large volumes of airborne pollutants." He continued "Peer-reviewed scientific studies show that these substances, which are toxic at low concentrations, are not only from natural sources, but oilsands mining and processing are important additional sources." He added "Deleterious substances have been deposited in the waters in clear violation of the federal Fisheries Act."

A letter has been sent to Prime Minister Harper calling on the Federal Government to establish a new fish health monitoring program for the area. The letter was signed by fishers from Fort Chipewyan and Fort MacKay, leadership, health professionals and scientists involved with related research on the lower Athabasca River, Delta and Lake Athabasca. Residents of Fort Chipewyan and Fort MacKay are in the process of adding their signatures to the letter, and a list will be forwarded to the Prime Minister.

Chief Allan Adam of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation said: "We live a very traditional life, we live off the land and the water. We have been told again and again that contaminants are naturally occurring, yet in the last 40 years we have seen the health of our community decline due to cancers and illness that we didn't see before. We need answers now about whether industry pollutants are related to declines in fish health and the health of our community."

George Poitras, former Chief of the Mikisew Cree stated: "Fishermen in Fort Chipewyan are increasingly concerned about the health of fish in the Peace-Athabasca Delta. Today's display of problem fish is commentary that this issue cannot and must not be ignored by the federal government. For this reason, fishermen from my community are today calling on the federal government to step up and ensure that fish health in the Lake Athabasca region is studied and proper mechanisms are established to effectively monitor fish health."

Stop the Tar Sands

Local fisherman, Raymond Ladouceur, talks about the affects the tar sands have had on fishing and his community. "Stop the Tar Sands" is a Greenpeace campaign that calls on oil companies and the government to stop the tar sands and end the industrialization of a vast area of Indeginous territories, forests and wetlands in northern Alberta.

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