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.
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.”