Fisheries Concerns

Reference Number

Research is ongoing at multiple universities in the Maritimes(including several in Nova Scotia) on heavy metals such as mercury and arsenic entering the rivers from historic NS gold mining activities. They suggest these heavy metals enter the food chain and bio-accumulate in various fish species - of which are the historic energy source (food) and economic backbone of our province. This was not only irresponsible but also negligence on the behalf of our provincial government and they could be and should be held accountable for this. One preliminary study shows extremely high arsenic levels in Tomcod and extremely high levels of mercury in Striped bass and American eel. All of these species are currently consumed by Nova Scotians regularly.

The Nova Scotia Department of Environment and Natural Resources does not currently have the capability to properly assess any damage involving the marine ecosystem or the species within. This includes damage caused by gold mining activities, past and present. They have openly admitted this lack of ability in an email to the CEAA (predecessor of the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada), which was obtained through the Freedom of Information Act. A responsible government should demand federal input through the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada to understand the full ramifications of this new proposed activity. Careful consideration must be given with regard to the legal responsibility of the government to protect the health of its citizens from further potential adverse effects of gold mining – whether it continue to be arsenic and mercury, or cyanide, etc. As well, we have a responsibility to leave our inland and coastal environments in a state that benefits our future generations. In fairness, any federal ministerial approval that may potentially super cede evidence-based decision making within the federal departments should be only implemented with a public avenue to hold such minister personally accountable for any future hazardous health implications experienced by any Canadian citizen. We strongly recommend that a precautionary approach be implemented. There should also be an avenue to hold any and all decision makers personally accountable for any potential adverse effects relating to the decisions that they made.  


Studies on this issue should be conducted using a similarapproach to the those conducted using academic, local and traditional knowledge systems in the Minas Basin. Studies conducted solely by academics tend to neglect local and traditional knowledge in the initial stages of their studies. For example, academics are not trained or qualified to capture or locate fish and/or fish habitat, often use incorrect fishing techniques and also lack an ability to identify key fishing locations for each individual species. Therefore, academics frequently do not catch target species or are not able to produce a true representation of the species diversity and abundance in a particular area. Academics also tend to miss important seasonal timings and absence of fish during a survey does not necessarily indicate absence of fish or fish habitat. Any of these issues lead to irrelevant studies, regardless of how well they’re written. All knowledge systems including academic are needed to draw meaningful conclusions on this issue. 


Public good can be measured in many ways – not just in economic benefit but also in a clean environment and health. These other benefits must be balanced with the potential economic benefits of such projects. This gold is currently in the ground and will not disappear if is not extracted today. Perhaps extraction techniques will evolve and become less harmful in the future, upon which may be a better time to extract this resource and avoid potential undesired consequences. 


If this project receives approval, Canadian citizens deserve a thorough explanation as to how the government determined,through an evidence-based decision-making process, that this particular project will not have significant adverse effects. Significant adverse effects must also be thoroughly defined in this explanation. 


We are not against the harvesting of natural resources in this province, but we are strongly cautioning that these practices be weighed against the potential environmental harm and health impacts to the citizens, animals and fishes of this province. 


Darren Porter 

Splesmen for the Fundy United Federation.


Submitted by
Darren Porter
Public Notice
Date Submitted
2020-01-21 - 12:26 PM
Date modified: