Fish and ecosystem health as determined by parasite communities of lake whitefish (Coregonus clupeaformis) from Saskatchewan boreal lakes

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Courtesy of IWA Publishing

In northern Canada, there is increasing concern about the potential negative impacts of industrial activities on wildlife and ecosystems. Therefore, a study was conducted on lake whitefish (Coregonus clupeaformis) from Montreal and Reindeer lakes, Saskatchewan, to assess fish health and condition, and ecosystem integrity of these northern lakes. In Montreal Lake, all fish were infected by ≥2 parasite species. The most prevalent parasite at this site was the larval trematode Ichthyocotylurus erraticus, which was detected in all fish examined. All Reindeer Lake whitefish were shown to harbour ≥1 parasite species. The most prevalent parasite (found in 87.9% of fish) at this locality was the larval trematode Diplostomum sp. Macroscopically visible pathogenic changes were not noted. Gross energy values of whitefish were 4.40 ± 0.88 MJ/kg and 5.14 ± 1.14 MJ/kg for Montreal Lake and Reindeer Lake, respectively, indicating that fish have sufficient energy stores to withstand stressful conditions. The parasite communities were species-rich and diverse, with Shannon diversity indices of 2.12 (Montreal Lake) and 2.02 (Reindeer Lake). The ratios of allogenic/autogenic as well as planktonic/benthic parasite species did not indicate atypical environmental conditions. Together the findings suggest that in both lakes there is currently no significant anthropogenic impact on the whitefish populations and ecosystem health.

Keywords: boreal lakes, ecosystem integrity, fish health, lake whitefish, parasites, Saskatchewan

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