Jackfish Bay: Area of Concern (In Recovery)

Jackfish Bay was designated an Area of Concern (AOC) in 1987 under the Canada-U.S. Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. Pollution from the pulp mill in Terrace Bay contributed to the degraded environmental water quality and environmental health. Six out of 14 beneficial use impairments (BUIs) were identified, which measure the environmental, human health or economic impact of poor water quality. A further two beneficial uses were deemed “requiring further assessment”, meaning more information was required to determine whether they were impaired.

Accomplishments

In 2011, Jackfish Bay was re-designated as an Area of Concern in recovery, which means all actions to restore water quality and ecosystem health are complete, and the area now needs time to recover naturally. A long-term monitoring plan is being implemented to track environmental recovery.

Over the past 30 years, there has been significant progress in restoring the water and environmental quality in the bay. This includes:

  • improvements to Terrace Bay Mill  and changing to chlorine-free pulp production in the early 1990s, which reduced the release of harmful pollutants from entering the water
  • declines in toxic dioxin and furan concentrations in local fish
  • the decline in fish liver tumour rates by over 7% in Jackfish Bay from 1985 to 2006, bringing this impairment into a healthy range
  • recovering fish populations, with Lake Trout and whitefish now abundant and a growing Brook Trout population, as well as healthy spawning and nursery habitat in the eastern portion of the bay 

Restoration of beneficial uses

Significant progress has been made to improve environmental conditions in the AOC in Recovery. These beneficial uses are no longer considered “impaired”:

  • restrictions on dredging activities (1998)
  • fish tumours or other deformities (2010)
  • bird or animal deformities or reproduction problems (2010)

Work continues on restoring the remaining beneficial uses:

  • degradation of fish and wildlife populations - wildlife populations are not impaired and the assessment of fish populations is underway based on data collected over several years
  • degradation of benthos – an assessment of benthic communities (bottom-dwelling aquatic organisms important to the food chain) is underway based on data collected over several years
  • loss of fish and wildlife habitat – wildlife habitat is not impaired and an assessment of fish habitat is being planned with additional data to be collected in the future
  • restrictions on fish and wildlife consumption - wildlife consumption is not impaired and an updated analysis of fish contaminants and fish consumption advisories will be undertaken in this area, which in the past has had elevated restrictions for eating fish
  • degradation of aesthetics – the assessment of aesthetics (how a waterbody looks) is currently underway

Recent actions

The overall health of Jackfish Bay has improved through these recent actions:

  • sampling of sediment entering from Blackbird Creek to assess its contribution to surface sediment contamination
  • assessing benthic and fish communities in Jackfish Bay to help determine recovery of the area
  • conducting field 

Remaining actions

We will continue to work with local and provincial partners to support restoration actions and the environmental monitoring and assessment studies needed to confirm environmental quality objectives are met. Priorities are to:

  • continue implementing long-term monitoring for Jackfish Bay while it recovers naturally before the delisting criteria will be met.
  • continue assessing fish health, water and sediment quality
  • continue enforcing regulations to ensure the pulp mill complies with the federal and provincial regulatory requirements

Outlook

Jackfish Bay has seen significant progress towards restoration since its designation as an AOC and will remain an AOC in recovery until monitoring indicates that the remaining beneficial uses have been restored. Under the Canada-Ontario Agreement on Great Lakes Water Quality and Ecosystem Health, we will work with the province of Ontario to continue assessing monitoring results for environmental recovery. Once restoration has been confirmed, Jackfish Bay will be removed from the list of AOCs.

Our partners

We partner with other levels of government, non-government groups, Indigenous communities and members of the public. This restoration work requires a large amount of scientific and technical expertise, local knowledge, hard work and the help of:

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