It’s once again safe to eat fish caught in Lake Laberge.
Since 1991, the territorial government has warned there’s dangerously high levels of toxaphene in the lake’s trout and burbot.
The chemical was once widely used as an insecticide. Air currents pushed the poisonous substance to northern Canada, where it lingered in the soil and built up in the fatty tissues of fish.
But recent tests have shown that toxaphene levels in Laberge’s fish are “not an issue,” said Brendan Hanley, Yukon’s chief medical officer, in a release.
The lake’s drop in toxaphene may be due to dwindling use of the chemical worldwide, he said. Rebounding trout numbers may play a role, too.
A commercial trout fishery operated on the lake until 1991, when it shuttered for fear of depleting the stock. Researchers have speculated that the low numbers of lake trout that remained were able, for wont of competition, to gobble up an unusual number of small fish, rather than invertebrates – and in doing so, saw high levels of toxaphene build up in their bodies.
Laberge’s trout are prized for their firm flesh, a product of the cold waters they dwell in. And burbot livers are a First Nation delicacy.