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sector_ico_Fisheries_trans Fisheries & Aquaculture

Tracking Fish Health in the Nass River Watershed to Alleviate Mining Activity Impacts

GEN004
  • Project Leaders: Vicki Marlatt, Mark Cleveland
  • Institutions: Simon Fraser University (SFU)
  • Budget: $211416
  • Program/Competition: GeneSolve
  • Genome Centre(s): Genome British Columbia
  • Fiscal Year: 2018
  • Status: Active

The fisheries and mining industries in British Columbia (BC) contribute approximately $1.2 and $8.8 billion respectively to the BC economy. The development of the KSM gold mine, located 65 km north of Stewart, BC within the Ness watershed and Chinook salmon habitat, is an opportunity to show how both industries can co-exist without affecting one another.

The Gitanyow Fisheries Authority (GFA) provides fisheries, wildlife and environmental leadership and oversees the Nass watershed. In this collaborative project, the GFA and Dr. Vicki Marlatt and team from Simon Fraser University (SFU) aim to better understand the health and movement of Chinook salmon in the Nass watershed using environmental DNA (eDNA). Genomic tools such as eDNA and proteomics can be used to detect living organisms in aquatic systems, as well as provide insight into their condition, without needing to sacrifice them. 

Over the two-year project, SFU researchers and the GFA will aim to accomplish the following:

  1. Verify metal concentration in the water near KSM mine and whether it affects wildlife,
  2. Understand the impact of metals in the watershed and if they bioaccumulate,
  3. Identify biomarkers that indicate if metal exposure has occurred, and
  4. Develop primers for sockeye and steelhead, and standard eDNA testing protocols for them

The success of this project will inform the GFA and others in the use of water samples containing eDNA to assess the abundance and condition of the fisheries with minimal invasiveness and sacrifice of fish.