First Nations point fingers after finding two deformed fish in Lake Athabasca

Members of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation (ACFN) are publicizing two deformed fish they caught in Lake Athabasca on Wednesday, intimating destruction of fish habitat from oil sands operations up river.

Fort McMurray is 298 km south west of Lake Athabasca. The Athabasca River is one of the primary inflow rivers to Lake Athabasca.

According to the ACFN's news release, a suckerfish and jackfish were found at two separate locations that were "grotesquely deformed, lesion covered". They are being kept by the ACFN and will be sent for analysis to the Canadian Cooperative Wildlife Health Centre.

The story was picked up by the Canadian Press that reported that deformities could have also been caused naturally.

The First Nation band is drawing its own conclusions.

“These fish are just another reminder of why we have to keep challenging government and industry about the pace of development and what it’s doing to our water and land. Government and industry are clearly failing to adequately protect our waterways and wildlife from contamination upstream,” states Chief Allan Adam in the news release.

“This is a clear indication of violations to the current Fisheries Act and our constitutionally protected Treaty rights. If we continue to allow irresponsible development in the region what is going to be left for the next generation of our people?”

Lake Athabasca is the eighth largest in Canada. The lake gave up a world record lake trout measuring 46.3 kg (102 lb) in 1961 to a  gil netter.

Image from Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation and the Tar Sands blog