A renowned Alberta water scientist is urging the federal government to take action after he discovered deformities in fish in the Athabasca River downriver from oil sands developments bear a striking resemblance to ones found in fish after spills in U.S. waters.
University of Alberta ecologist Dr. David Schindler said the only way to know for sure which petrochemicals — and in what concentrations — cause the deformities is to conduct whole ecosystem experiments at the Experimental Lakes Area (ELA) in Northern Ontario.
“I propose that the ELA site and laboratory should be kept open to conduct these important experiments, which have implications for future effects of oil extraction and transport in or near both marine and freshwater ecosystems,” Schindler wrote in a letter to Environment Minister Peter Kent and Fisheries Minister Keith Ashfield.
The ELA was shuttered on March 31 after its funding was cut in last year’s budget. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) says it is in negotiations with other parties to take over the operation of the one-of-a-kind facility. The government will save $2-million a year by off-loading the outdoor laboratory made up of 58 small pristine lakes.