Ringed seal health in response to a hydroelectric plant development
Ringed seals (Pusa hispida) along the Labrador coast are exposed to various stressors, including contaminants, changing sea ice conditions, disease and local industrial activities. These factors make ringed seals an excellent species of choice for assessing and monitoring contaminant accumulation, contaminant-related health effects at the top of the food web, and to evaluate the status of the marine ecosystem. Indigenous communities living in Southern Labrador, particularly near Lake Melville, are concerned about the mercury levels in country foods they harvest
and the possible impacts on ringed seals from the hydroelectric power development on the Lower Churchill River. To address these concerns we are evaluating the effects of contaminants on ringed seal health in Lake Melville using we using a targeted mulit-OMICs
(transcriptomics and metabolomics) platform. These analyses will include several important biomarkers related to MeHg and organic contaminant exposure. Our results have bearing on the health of the ringed seal population in southern Labrador, in addition to those community members that rely on this species as important country food.