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Effects of environmentally-relevant concentrations of neonicotinoids and mixtures of pesticides prevalent in British Columbia surface waters on salmonid health


Current-use pesticides represent a potential health concern for anadromous salmonids throughout the Fraser River Basin. Pesticide contamination can be extensive in agricultural and urban watersheds and recent monitoring has shown that surface waters in major tributaries to the main stem of the Fraser River are frequently contaminated with diverse mixtures of insecticides, herbicides, and other biocidal compounds. The consequences of pesticide exposures for the health of salmon and the viability of natural populations are still largely unknown. This uncertainty creates difficult challenges for the management of threatened or endangered salmonids and the restoration of pesticide-contaminated habitats.

To address these important knowledge gaps with respect to pesticide risk to salmonids, this research project will investigate an emerging chemical class of insecticide, the neonicotinoids, for their sublethal impacts on the development, physiology, and behavior of sockeye salmon. In addition, this project will evaluate the effects of environmentally relevant pesticide mixtures under realistic exposure scenarios on the developmental physiology and behavior of salmon. This research project is designed to evaluate the effects of both specific neonicotinoid and a general pesticide mixture exposure on the reproduction, development, performance, and molecular responses of salmon. Laboratory and field experiments will include exposures to neonicotinoid pesticides; exposures to pesticide mixtures determined from field-collected data; and, cage studies involving the deployment of fertilized eggs to sites in agricultural areas of the Lower Fraser Valley and southern Vancouver Island. This research project is integrative, and incorporates techniques in developmental biology, endocrinology, genomics and animal behavior. These measurements of toxicity have been chosen for their environmental relevance; alterations in these parameters are identifiable as impacting salmon at the population level.

This research will provide new empirical data for a poorly characterized class of pesticide as well as providing much needed data regarding the effects of real world pesticide mixtures on young salmon. The research findings will apply to all river systems within Canada where pesticides are known or suspected to occur in conjunction with salmonid species.

Program Name

National Contaminants Advisory Group (NCAG)


2014 - 2017


Pacific: Vancouver Island West Coast

Principal Investigator(s)

Vicki Marlatt
Assistant Professor, Department of Biological Sciences
Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, British Columbia

Team Member(s)

Chris Kennedy, Department of Biological Sciences, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, British Columbia

Chris Martyniuk, Adjunct Professor University of New Brunswick (UNBSJ) and Associate Professor, University of Florida, Center for Environmental and Human Toxicology, Gainesville, FL

Collaborating Government Department(s)

Environment Canada

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