Fish survey analysis could come early next year

Fort William First Nation, Ont. — Fort William First Nation residents will soon be able to learn more about a fish-consumption survey that intends to help inform the band and other interested agencies about the health of Thunder Bay harbour, including its ability to support a supply of edible fish free of contaminants. The community is to host an information meeting about the project on Sept. 11. “The survey has already been developed and should go out (to respondents) in August,” Fort William environmental officer Bobbi-Lee Bannon said in an earlier interview. Bannon said she’s hoping to have about 100 responses combined from community residents and Fort William band members who live off reserve. An analysis may be ready early next year. Few Fort William members fish in Thunder Bay harbour these days, opting instead for inland lakes. Those who do drop a line in Lake Superior know that fish health improves the further one ventures from the harbour. Though common Superior species like lake trout are no longer being observed with tumours or deformities in the harbour, they often continue to be covered in an unappetizing slime, and dark flecks of tiny mites can appear in the gills, Bannon said. The fish consumption survey project is being supported by a $13,500 provincial grant, which is part of a broader $6-million program that was announced this summer for Great Lakes restoration initiatives. Thunder Bay’s harbour was designated as a federal “area of concern” in 1987, mainly due to a historical legacy of unchecked industrial pollution from forestry operations at the waterfront, and inadequately treated sewage. According to a federal backgrounder that was updated in May this year, “significant progress has been made to improve environmental conditions in the area of concern,” including the use of beaches and restrictions on harbour dredging. The Sept. 11 meeting is to take place at Fort William First Nation at 5 p.m. To encourage a good response in the survey, the band is offering gift cards to participants.