CANADA: PROTECT THE HEALTH OF INUIT HUNTERS AND FISHERS
Unless adequate preventive measures are taken, flooding for the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric dam in Labrador will threaten the health and culture of downstream Inuit hunters and fishers for generations to come.
A Harvard University led team of scientists has warned that completion of the Muskrat Fall dam will result in a dramatic increase in exposure to methylmercury among Inuit who rely on fish, seal, and other wild foods from the downstream Lake Melville Estuary.
Based on current consumption levels of wild foods, the study estimates that almost half of the community of Rigolet would be exposed to methylmercury levels exceeding Canadian health guidelines.
Excessive exposure to methylmercury can lead to a wide range of debilitating health effects, including neurological degeneration. Infants and children as especially susceptible.
Now an advisory committee appointed by the province has highlighted these same concerns.
“Families like mine
regularly rely on
Lake Melville for food."
“Families like mine regularly rely on Lake Melville for food. If the Muskrat Falls project continues on the current path, we are going to see a significant increase in methylmercury exposure to our families. That is not acceptable, especially when something can be done about it.” – Darryl Shiwak, Nunatsiavut Government
Federal and provincial approval of the Muskrat Falls dam included requirements to monitor methylmercury in fish and issue warnings against eating the fish if the levels get too high.
What this means is that government would wait until vital sources of Inuit subsistence are already contaminated and then deal with the problem by telling Inuit communities to abandon these foods and the cultural traditions of which they are a vital part.
The Inuit government of Nunatsiavut is not opposed to the Muskrat Falls dam. But it has called for the project to be done right. This includes clearing all vegetation and topsoil in the reservoir area before flooding, a measure that would help to significantly reduce the formation of methylmercury.
The province's advisory committee has just made the same recommendation. The province says it is reviewing the advisory committee report and will make its decision shortly.