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Deformed and lesion covered fish caught in Lake Athabasca

Fort McMurray – May 31, 2012 – Wednesday afternoon members of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation (ACFN), including Chief Allan Adam, found two grotesquely deformed, lesion covered Fish in Lake Athabasca near the community of Fort Chipewyan, Alberta, a remote fly in community in Northern Alberta. The Suckerfish and Jackfish were found at two separate locations on Lake Athabasca Wednesday afternoon and are now stored in the community and will be sent for analysis at the CCWHC lab in Calgary.

Pictures of the fish show lesions and sores across the fish’s entire body raising concerns among community members in Fort Chipewyan.
“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 Adam. “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?”

This is not the first time fish deformities have been found in the region, in September 2010 a slideshow of fish with tumors, deformities and signs of disease or infection collected from Athabasca region, downstream from the tar sands was presented to the public and made headlines. Since this time the community has been waiting for independent studies on the health effects of the tar sands on the fish and people in northern Alberta. Instead of stronger protection and monitoring government announced drastic changes to the Fisheries Act removing provisions that prevent any industrial activities that “result in the harmful alteration, disruption, or destruction of fish habitat.”

Members of ACFN and much of the larger community of Fort Chipewyan are long time critics of upstream tar sands development and its impacts on traditional hunting, fishing, and gathering practices. Chief Adam, like many other residents of Fort Chipewyan, hold unique treaty rights that protect their ability to continue practicing traditional and cultural lifestyles that are now being impeded by encroaching tar sands projects, large water withdrawals and contamination of vital waterways. In the wake of government failure to protect sacred and vital waterways and land ACFN sees no other choice but to seriously explore their own independent monitoring and stewardship plans that would adequately monitor and protect the land and waterways.

Chief Adam and ACFN have been vocal opponents to what they are calling irresponsible tar sands development in the Athabasca Delta. ACFN filed suit against oil giant Shell Oil Canada in 2011 citing the company failed to meet past agreement for two of its open pit mining projects. Chief Adam has publicly stated ACFN plans to challenge Shell Oil Canada’s two new proposed tar sands projects stating that allowing these projects to proceed would further impact their territory and way of life by taking away land, putting species at risk, lowering water levels and contaminating the fish supply.

“Enough is enough, we can no longer let the government grant permit after permit without adequately addressing impacts to our rights, our lands and the environment. We will do everything in our power to ensure that our water, our land and our rights are protected by pursuing all avenues for our own independent monitoring and stewardship of the region.”

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For More information contact:

Chief Allan Adam, Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation 780-713-1220

Eriel Deranger, Communication Coordinator ACFN 780-903-6598

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