FIShNET (Fish & Indigenous Northern Health) Healthy Water, Healthy Fish, Healthy People

Principal Investigators: Kelly Skinner, Brian Laird, Heidi Swanson
Project Manager: Mylène Ratelle
Indigenous partner/Co-investigators: Mushkegowuk Council 

FIShNET helps answer one of the most critical questions from Indigenous people in northern Ontario: “How safe are fish to eat?”

Alongside our Indigenous partner, the Mushkegowuk Council, we are examining the long-term sustainability of wild-harvested fish as a healthy food resource in the face of climate change and resource development.

Environmental change in lakes and rivers can impact fish health, including through elevated mercury levels. Using fish sampling and traditional knowledge techniques, this research assesses both risks and benefits associated with fish consumption in a Mushkegowuk community while considering that alternative options to a traditional diet often cause more harm in terms of nutrition and chronic disease risks. By detecting and predicting changes in the safety and sustainability of regional fish stocks, this research considers the clarity and effectiveness of the government’s fish consumption guide and advisories that provide recommendations on how best to include fish in one’s diet.

The project will provide advice on how to tailor these risk communication tools to best account for local priorities and preferences of northern Indigenous communities. The work will also examine the role and contribution of fish and other traditional foods to food security, including aspects of seasonal variability as well as to examine coping strategies for food insecurity related to fish.

Working collaboratively with the community, the goal is to help people make informed choices on how to eat traditional, wild-harvested, fish while balancing nutritional benefits with risks from contaminants.


West coast of James Bay, northern Ontario

Bottom Line

Promoting food security and safety in northern Indigenous communities while considering the impact of climate change and resource development on fish health.