Tribes studying chemicals in fish, and what it might do to people
Article from KUWS (WI)
Posted November 12, 2007
Chequamegon Bay tribes are investigating the effects of fish contaminants in the greatest of the Great Lakes. Danielle Kaeding reports from Superior.
Lake Superior is facing threats on all sides: from development on it shores to invasive species to the air we breathe. Matt Hudson of the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission says most chemicals in Lake Superior come from the atmosphere. "There's residual sources of some of these chemicals--like toxifine was used in the southern United States on cotton crops. When you get the right weather pattern, some of that toxifine that's still in that soil down there can get up into the atmosphere and carried in conveyor belt fashion up to the Great Lakes Region and dumped in rainstorms over the Great Lakes." Hudson says the Bad River, Fond du Lac and Red Cliff bands sought out GLIFWC’s help. They hope to sort out which chemicals are in fish and what that means when people eat the fish. "Tribal members came to GLIFWC and said, 'We're concerned about mercury in fish.' This was focused more on walleye on inland lakes in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan. So, GLIFWC started a contaminant monitoring program. We've been measuring mercury in walleye in inland lakes since 1989. We recently started testing Lake Superior fish as well." Hudson says larger fish tend to contain more contaminants like mercury. "We're trying to get as much information as we can about fish species that tribal members are eating and concerned about so we can give them the tools to make choices. They're always going to eat fish. It's a part of their culture, so we try to give them the species of fish and sizes of fish and information that will help them reduce their risk and maximize benefits." Hudson says eating fish like herring and whitefish are low in contaminants and can improve heart health over time.