Springer Nature is making SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 research free. View research | View latest news | Sign up for updates

Parasites and Metals in Walleye (Sander vitreus) and Northern Pike (Esox lucius) from Boreal Montreal Lake (Saskatchewan, Canada): Assessment of Human Health Risks


Industrial activities conducted in Northern Canada have raised concerns among Indigenous communities regarding wildlife contamination and potential consequences for human health. Therefore, an investigation on the chemical (metals/metalloids) and biological (parasite) burden of adult walleye (Sandervitreus) and northern pike (Esoxlucius) from Montreal Lake, Saskatchewan, was conducted to assess health risks related to fish consumption. Dissection revealed that both fishes displayed typical parasite communities, with Eubothrium sp. (Cestoda) and Raphidascarisacus (Nematoda) occurring the most frequently. None of the identified parasite species were infectious to humans. Concentrations of most inorganic contaminants in fish muscle were low and both walleye and pike can be considered healthy components of a balanced diet. However, due to slightly elevated mercury concentrations, excessive daily consumption of these fishes is not recommended, as mercury exposure over time may lead to adverse health effects.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Anonymous (2009) Fish stock assessment: Montreal Lake. Saskatchewan Ministry of Environment, Regina

  2. Blanar CA, Munkittrick KR, Houlahan J et al (2009) Pollution and parasitism in aquatic animals: a meta-analysis of effect size. Aquat Toxicol 93:18–28

  3. Bush AO, Lafferty KD, Lotz JM et al (1997) Parasitology meets ecology on its own terms: Margolis et al. revisited. J Parasit 83:575–583

  4. Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) (2011) Fish products standards and methods manual, Appendix 3. Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Ottawa

  5. Chubb JC (1982) Seasonal occurrence of helminths in freshwater fishes. Part IV: adult Cestoda, Nematoda and Acanthocephala. Adv Parasitol 20:1–292

  6. Crofton HD (1971) A quantitative approach to parasitism. Parasitology 62:179–193

  7. Goode P, Champ J, Amundson L (1996) The Montreal Lake region: its history and geography. Sentar Consultants, Saskatoon

  8. Health Canada (2004) Federal contaminated site risk assessment in Canada, Part II: Health Canada toxicological reference values (TRVs). Health Canada, Ottawa

  9. Health Canada (2010) Federal contaminated site risk assessment in Canada, Part II: Health Canada Toxicological Reference Values (TRVs) and chemical-specific factors, version 2.0. Health Canada, Ottawa

  10. Health Canada (2017) Federal contaminated site risk assessment in Canada: supplemental guidance on human health risk assessment of contaminated sediments: direct contact pathway. Health Canada, Ottawa

  11. Himsworth CG, Jenkins E, Hill JE et al (2010) Emergence of sylvatic Echinococcus granulosus as a parasitic zoonosis of public health concern in an indigenous community in Canada. Am J Trop Med Hyg 82:643–645

  12. Hotez PJ (2010) Neglected infections of poverty among the indigenous peoples of the Arctic. PLOS Negl Trop Dis 4:e606

  13. Hudson PJ, Dobson AP, Lafferty KD (2006) Is a healthy ecosystem one that is rich in parasites? Trends Ecol Evol 21:381–385

  14. Hursky O, Pietrock M (2012) Chemical contaminants and parasites: assessment of human health risks associated with consumption of whitefish (Coregonus clupeaformis) from two boreal lakes in northern Saskatchewan, Canada. Sci Total Environ 424:97–103

  15. Huseman J, Short D (2012) ‘A slow industrial genocide’: tar sands and the indigenous peoples of northern Alberta. Int J Hum Rights 16:216–237

  16. Johnson MW (2001) Indicators (parasites and stable isotopes) of trophic status of yellow perch (Perca flavescens Mitchill) in nutrient poor Canadian Shield lakes. MSc thesis, University of Manitoba

  17. Kelly JM, Janz DM (2009) Assessment of oxidative stress and histopathology in juvenile northern pike (Esox lucius) inhabiting lakes downstream of a uranium mill. Aquat Toxicol 92:240–249

  18. Kelly EN, Schindler DW, Hodson PV et al (2010) Oil sands development contributes elements toxic at low concentrations to the Athabasca River and its tributaries. Proc Nat Acad Sci USA 107:16178–16183

  19. Klavinš M, Rodinov V, Vereskūns G (1998) Metals and organochlorine compounds in fish from Latvian lakes. Bull Environ Contam Toxicol 60:538–545

  20. Lafferty KD (1997) Environmental parasitology: what can parasites tell us about human impacts on the environment? Parasitol Today 13:251–255

  21. Leong TS, Holmes JC (1981) Communities of metazoan parasites in open water fishes of Cold Lake, Alberta. J Fish Biol 18:693–713

  22. Muzzall PM, Whelan G (2011) Parasites of fish from the Great Lakes: a synopsis and review of the literature, 1871–2010. Great Lakes Fishery Commission, Ann Arbor

  23. Nelson P, Krogman N, Johnston L et al (2015) Dead ducks and dirty oil: media representations and environmental solutions. Soc Nat Resour 28:345–359

  24. Pintaeva ETs, Bazarsadueva SV, Radnaeva LD, et al (2011) Content and character of metal accumulation in fish of the Kichera River (a tributary of Lake Baikal). Contemp Probl Ecol 4:64–68

  25. Poole BC, Dick TA (1985) Parasite recruitment by stocked walleye, Stizostedion vitreum vitreum (Mitchill), fry in a small boreal lake in central Canada. J Wildl Dis 21:371–376

  26. Raine JC, Pietrock M, Willner K et al (2017) Parasitological analysis and gill histopathology of pearl dace (Semotilus margarita) and brook stickleback (Culaea inconstans) collected from the Athabasca oil sands area (Canada). Bull Environ Contam Toxicol 98:733–739

  27. Schellenberg RS, Tan BJ, Irvine JD et al (2003) An outbreak of trichinellosis due to consumption of bear meat infected with Trichinella nativa in 2 Northern Saskatchewan communities. J Infect Dis 188:835–843

  28. Schindler D (2010) Tar sands need solid science. Nature 468:499

  29. Schurer JM, Ndao M, Skinner S et al (2013) Parasitic zoonoses: one health surveillance in northern Saskatchewan. PLoS Negl Trop Dis 7:e2141

  30. Stewart DB, Bernier LMJ (1999) Common parasites, diseases and injuries of freshwater fishes in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut. Fisheries and Oceans Canada

  31. Tekin-Özan S, Kir I (2006) Concentrations of some heavy metals in organs of two fish species from the Beyşehir Lake, Turkey. Fresen Environ Bull 15:530–534

  32. Timoney KP, Lee P (2009) Does the Alberta tar sands industry pollute? The scientific evidence. Open Conserv Biol J 3:65–81

  33. Waite DT, Joshi SR, Sommerstad H et al (1990) A toxicological examination of whitefish (Coregonus clupeaformis) and northern pike (Esox lucius) exposed to uranium mine tailings. Arch Environ Contam Toxicol 19:578–582

  34. Watson RA, Dick TA (1980) Metazoan parasites of pike, Esox lucius Linnaeus, from Southern Indian lake, Manitoba, Canada. J Fish Biol 17:255–261

Download references


We would like to thank Tina Giroux (Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations) and Noland Henderson (Montreal Lake Cree Nation) for their project support. We also thank Dr. Xiaofeng Wang and Michael Kautzman for their help with the chemical analyses. Research was approved by the University of Saskatchewan's Animal Research Ethics Board (protocol # 20110079). Financial support came from the Indigenous Peoples' Health Research Centre (Grant # NIS 1101) and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (Grant # 371538–2009).

Author information

Correspondence to M. Pietrock.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Matwee, L., Pietrock, M. Parasites and Metals in Walleye (Sander vitreus) and Northern Pike (Esox lucius) from Boreal Montreal Lake (Saskatchewan, Canada): Assessment of Human Health Risks. Bull Environ Contam Toxicol 103, 240–245 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00128-019-02624-y

Download citation


  • Northern pike
  • Walleye
  • Boreal Plains
  • Parasites
  • Metals
  • Human health risks