Jackfish Bay: Area of Concern

In May 2011, Jackfish Bay was officially re-designated as an Area of Concern (AOC) in Recovery, signifying that a long-term monitoring plan has been implemented to track and confirm environmental recovery.

Why was it listed as an Area of Concern?

Jackfish Bay was designated an AOC because a review of available data indicated that water quality and environmental health were severely degraded. Effluents, from the pulp and paper mill in Terrace Bay, which began operations in 1948 resulted in poor water quality, contamination of sediment, and fish and fish habitat destruction, along with impairment of populations of sediment-dwelling organisms in Jackfish Bay on Lake Superior. Mill wastewater effluent produced brown, foamy water and a strong odour that negatively affected the natural beauty of the area. In addition, overfishing and the presence of sea lamprey, an invasive species, contributed to a decline in lake trout populations. The situation resulted in eight of the Great Lake Water Quality Agreement’s 14 beneficial use indicators of ecosystem health being deemed as impaired.

What has been accomplished?

Major accomplishments have been realized in the Jackfish Bay AOC as a result of the implementation of federal and provincial pulp and paper regulations. With the source of contamination controlled, the environment started to improve significantly. The waters of Jackfish Bay are no longer toxic to fish, and the health of the local fish population has improved. When Jackfish Bay was designated as an Area of Concern in Recovery, three of the AOC’s original eight beneficial use impairments (BUIs) were considered to have achieved their respective restoration criteria, namely fish tumours and other deformities, bird and animal deformities and reproductive problems, and restrictions on dredging activities. This left five BUIs (restrictions on fish and wildlife consumption, degradation of fish and wildlife populations, degradation of benthos, degradation of aesthetics, and loss of fish and wildlife habitat) for which, having completed all restoration actions, more time is required for the environment to recover and for environmental quality objectives to be achieved.

Surveys indicate the presence of brook trout and fathead minnows in Blackbird Creek, which flows into Jackfish Bay, and suitable spawning, nursery and foraging habitat for many fish species in the Blackbird Creek system. Fish populations are recovering; with lake trout and whitefish now abundant, and there is a growing brook trout population.

A natural recovery plan was adopted to address contaminated sediment in Jackfish Bay. Through natural processes, such as the stabilization of sediments by expanding the plant community and covering existing sediment with clean material, the contaminants have been effectively isolated from the water column and food web.

What is left to do?

A natural recovery plan and long-term monitoring are in place for the Jackfish Bay AOC in Recovery. While the environment has improved significantly, it needs more time to continue natural recovery. The Governments of Canada and Ontario will continue assessing fish health and water and sediment quality, and will continue to enforce regulations to ensure the pulp and paper mill complies with the federal and provincial regulatory requirements.

Outlook

Jackfish Bay will remain an AOC in Recovery until such time as environmental monitoring indicates the remaining impaired beneficial uses have been restored. Once restoration has been confirmed, Jackfish Bay will be removed from the list of Great Lakes AOCs.

Partners

Efforts in Jackfish Bay are undertaken in a partnership between the Government of Canada, other levels of government and non-government groups, including members of the public. 

Undertaking environmental restoration requires a large amount of scientific and technical expertise, local knowledge and hard work. One agency or group cannot engage in such a large task on its own without the help of others.

Listed below are participants that have contributed to efforts in Jackfish Bay:

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