Mercury-Fire-Fish Project


Fish collections in support of the Joint Fire Sciences Mercury Fire Project in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.


The JFSP Mercury Fire Project is currently being conducted in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA) which was designated as non-motorized wilderness in 1978. The project was initiated to study fire, ecosystem, and mercury interactions resulting from a large pre-scribed burning program developed to reduce fuel loadings in the BWCA following the July 4, 1999 wind storm event. Part of this study includes sampling fish from eight study lakes that range from relatively high to relatively low fish tissue mercury concentrations. Yellow perch was selected as the target collection species due to its perceived abundance and because it had been commonly used in other studies (e.g. Voyagers National Park). Two person fish sampling crews, including at least one experienced electrofisher (crew leader), utilized battery backpack electrofishing gear, seines, waders, and/or canoes to capture yellow perch or other available fish species in each study lake. All shoreline electrofishing surveys (wading and boat) occurred at depths less than 6 feet to increase gear efficiency and safety. Yearling (Age 1+) yellow perch were targeted for fish tissue samples during fish collection activities in each study lake. If yellow perch were not present in a lake, an alternate fish species was selected for collection (i.e. bluegill, pumpkinseed sunfish, smallmouth bass, etc.) provided that the alternate species was sufficiently abundant to reasonably satisfy sample size requirements. Following collection activities in each study lake, all fish were placed in labeled one gallon Ziploc bags, placed in a cooler with ice, and transported to the Superior National Forest Supervisors Office in Duluth, Minnesota or to an appropriate sample location to be individually measured, weighed, bagged, labeled, and frozen. Samples were later transported to the University of Minnesota for tissue analysis.


In 2010, Superior National Forest Fisheries and Aquatics Program staff and the North Central Research Station cooperated in collecting yellow perch, bluegill, and pumpkinseed sunfish from 8 study lakes within the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Fish collections were subsampled, aged, and transported to the University of Minnesota for tissue analysis.


Jason Butcher (218)626-4307


North Central Research Station , University of Minnesota , USDI USGS , Minnesota Pollution Control Agency