Poisoned angler calls for access to information

by Steve Galea | June 30, 2021
A trout and walleye laying on two boards with a fillet knife

When competitive angler Jason Doyon of Sault Ste. Marie started noticing a decline in his cognitive and physical abilities two years ago, he took it seriously.

Mercury poisoning

Doyon said general physical fatigue, accompanied by depression, anxiety, and brain fog, caused him to seek medical help, which included multiple blood tests. After getting many tests, he visited a private medical clinic where staff determined Doyon had extremely high levels of mercury in his system – attributed it to an unusually high volume of fish consumed over many years.

“Because I was a competitive angler, I was eating, at peak, three to four meals of fish a week during the open water fishing seasons over the last 15 to 20 years,” he said.

Doyon said it would be difficult to place the blame on a particular fish or area, since he fished so many areas throughout Canada and the US during that time. He knew anglers were advised to research safe levels of fish consumption for the waters they fish but did not take that seriously then.

He feels differently now. 

Access to information

He also questions why the Guide to Eating Ontario Fish is so hard to find and difficult to understand and hopes his experience reminds anglers of the importance of heeding fish consumption guidelines. He is also calling for improvements in the way this information is communicated to the public.

Among other things, Doyon wants to see a downloadable version of the fish consumption guidelines that is also linked or mentioned within fishing regulation summaries.

Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters (OFAH) Fisheries Biologist Adam Weir says Doyon’s suggestions are reasonable. “We have the capability to do this. Why aren’t we doing it?”

Currently, the guide, which is updated every second year, is handled by the Ministry of Environment Conservation and Parks and can only be found online at www.ontario.ca/environment-and-energy/eating-ontario-fish. There are also links to the page through the province’s mobile Fish ON-Line mapping tool.

Ontario Commercial Fisheries’ Association Fisheries Biologist Michael Thorn responded.

“The Ontario commercial fishing industry prides itself on producing high-quality fish products that consumers can be confident in eating. All commercial fish are subject to strict food safety regulations and guidelines established by Health Canada. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency enforces the food safety standards established by Health Canada and actively monitors Ontario commercial fish through regular testing to ensure all fish products are safe and healthy for consumers.”

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  1. Joe Lupiani wrote: It clearly states in the fishing regulations about consuming fish And to be careful not to over eat them. We know they have some levels of mercury in them.
  2. Dave Sinclair wrote: While I support Jasons concerns and recommendations and Im happy to know that he was able to identify the cause of his medical condition and therefore receive the appropriate treatment, the most alarming part of his story to me is his need to go to a private medical clinic to be diagnosed. There may be more to that part of the story but you would think with our world class health care system Ontarians wouldnt have to resort to a private clinic. How many people would take that next step or perhaps even have the resources to go to a private clinic? Dave Sinclair Toronto, Ontario
  3. Walleyeguy wrote: His mercury level was 75, after a season of guiding and enjoying the daily shore lunches my mercury level was at 114. Fortunately no symptoms, and fortunately after several months of follow up blood tests the level in my body actually dropped very quickly without treatment. I am definitely more cautious now. I've known about the book for years, and so do most people, but I really should have followed it. He makes a good point in another article about the commercial fishery selling large fish that are not recommended for consumption. I think he's onto something about that.