If you’re planning on fishing in Lake Ontario this weekend, you might want to reconsider eating your catch for dinner.
Environmental Defence released a report yesterday, Up to the Gills: Pollution in Great Lakes Fish on the eve of Ontario Family Fishing Weekend, indicating levels of toxic chemicals in Great Lakes fish are alarmingly high and becoming more serious over time.
Environmental Defence named Lake Ontario the most polluted of all five lakes.
“The Great Lakes gives us a great many things,” said Aaron Freeman, policy director of Environmental Defence. “It has been a major source of fish food for Canadians even today, although the days of drawing fish from the lakes for most Ontarians is long gone.”
However, Ontario’s Ministry of Environment claims there has actually been a decrease in fish contamination but more information on pollutants.
“What’s happened is recently Health Canada upgraded their guidelines,” said Kate Jordan, spokesperson for the Ministry of Environment. “It’s not because the contamination in the fish is getting worse. We have better health information because we have better science.”
According to the Environmental Defence report, eight categories of fish in Lake Ontario became more contaminated within the last two years, while only one category improved.
Advisory levels are more severe for larger fish because they are older and therefore can accumulate more toxins in their tissue.
However, severe consumption advisories have also been issued for smaller fish.
“The pollution is getting worse and worse and we know because of the contamination levels in Great Lakes fish,” Freeman said. “Canada is falling further and further behind.”
Freeman said Canada is largely to blame for not being committed to “cleaning up” in comparison to the U.S.
“Our studies on pollution watch in Environmental Defence have shown that pollution sources in Canada are actually becoming worse,” he said. “If you look on a per facility basis, Canadian facilities pollute 93 per cent more than their U.S. counterparts — this is a Canadian problem.”
Jordan said Canada is doing its share despite allegations.
“We have worked on a number of issues involving the quality of water in the Great Lakes, and moving forward into the future, we will be committed to that,” she said.
Environmental Defence suggests following the Guide to Eating Ontario Sport Fish, published by the Ontario Ministry of Environment to determine which types of fish are safe to eat.