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Balancing risks in the management of contaminated first nations fisheries

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In the 1980s and 1990s, the Government of Canada closed and/or issued advisories for a number of shellfish fisheries in coastal areas of British Columbia because of dioxin contamination. Only the direct health risks (i.e., cancer) of consuming contaminated shellfish for the general population were considered by the Government in the formulation of risk management options. A focus on the direct risks does not provide an adequate basis for risk decisions as the countervailing risks which may be created from management measures may easily be overlooked. This study describes the potential health impacts of risk management options for aboriginal coastal peoples in the management of dioxin contamination. Gold River and Powell River in British Columbia, Canada, are the areas of focus. The cancer risks of consuming dioxin contaminated shellfish for these sites are estimated. To assess the countervailing risks of management decisions for comparison, a scenario was developed in which First Nations peoples substitute shellfish with store-bought foods in their diets in the event of a fishery closure or advisory. Increases in mortality due to coronary heart disease are estimated. The results suggest that the health risks of dietary changes among aboriginal peoples may be as significant as those related to eating dioxin contaminated shellfish.
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Document Type: Regular Paper

Affiliations: Center for Environmental Research, J.W. University Frankfurt, Georg-Voigt-Str. 14, 60054 Frankfurt am Main, Germany

Publication date: December 1, 2002

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