Fish Mercury Datalayer

Release of Fish Mercury Datalayer for Canada (FIMDAC): Information for potential researchers


The Canadian Fish Mercury Database (CFMD, Depew et al. 2013a) is a collation of available freshwater fish mercury (Hg) concentration data from across Canada, developed under Environment Canada's Clean Air Regulatory Agenda (CARA) Mercury Science Program. The CARA Mercury Science Program was implemented to provide scientific information for the development of policy and regulations associated with the management of atmospheric mercury emissions in Canada (Morrison, 2011). The CFMD represents data contributions from federal and provincial agencies, private industry, universities and non-governmental organizations and is described in Depew et al (2013a).

Extracted Figure 4 from Depew et al 2013b


The Fish Mercury Datalayer for Canada (FIMDAC, Depew et al. 2013b) represents model-derived estimates of mercury concentrations in a widespread common indicator species, in this case, a standardized12-cm whole-fish yellow perch. The geographical distribution of yellow perch ranges across North America, and they represent an important prey species for piscivorous fish, birds, and mammals. The FIMDAC mercury estimates were established through the application of the United States Geological Survey’s (USGS) National Descriptive Model of Mercury in Fish (NDMMF, Wente 2004) to the CFMD. FIDMAC records contain the estimated mercury burden (ug/g, wet weight) for a standard length (12 cm) whole yellow perch at 1936 unique freshwater sites across Canada, collected between 1990 and 2010. The FIMDAC enables direct comparisons of fish mercury across locations by eliminating spatiotemporal and sample characteristic variability, and represents a useful preliminary national-level standardized index of mercury exposure to piscivorous fish and wildlife (Depew et al. 2013c).  Further details regarding the development of the FIMDAC can be found in Depew et al. (2013b).


Interested researchers should submit the online Data Request Form. It is important to understand the nature of this datalayer which is based on NDMMF output, the limitations of this data and conditions for using this data (see below).


Suggested uses for the FIMDAC dataset could include:

  • GIS layer of fish mercury data for use in spatial modeling of processes related to mercury deposition, methylation and food web biomagnification.
  • GIS layer of fish mercury data for use in mercury eco-risk assessment across Canada.
  • GIS layer of fish mercury data for use as an indicator of aquatic methylmercury levels across Canada.
  • GIS layer of fish mercury data to use as a baseline (1990-2010) for future comparison with similar fish mercury data, to assess changes over time or due to mercury management initiatives at the national or international level.

NOTE: The FIMDAC is not appropriate for use in the following the applications:
1.    Human health risk assessments
2.    As a source for temporal trend studies
3.    Precision fine-scale modeling
4.    Providing consumption advisories
5.    Establishing fishing regulations


Access to the FIMDAC dataset will be granted to approved researchers upon completion of the pre-screening application, and provided that they agree to comply with the conditions stipulated in the associated letter agreement to be provided upon request.

As well, potential users must agree to acknowledge two scientific papers by Depew et al. (2013a,b) and the associated metadata (Little et al, 2014), references provided below, if the FIMDAC is used in any form, whether in whole, part, or as a value-added project.


The following references to be cited if the FIDMAC database is used:

1) M Little, DC Depew NM Burgess & LM Campbell. 2014. Metadata: Fish Mercury Datalayer for Canada (FIDMAC).

2) Depew, D.C., Burgess, N.M., Anderson, M.R., Baker, R., Bhavsar, S.P., Bodaly, R.A., Eckley, C.S., Evans, M.S., Gantner, N., Graydon, J.A., Jacobs, K., LeBlanc, J.E., St. Louis, V.L., and Campbell, L.M. 2013a. An overview of mercury concentrations in freshwater fish species: A national fish mercury dataset for Canada. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences. 70: 436-451.

3) Depew, D.C., Burgess, N.M., and Campbell, L.M. 2013b. Modeling mercury concentrations in prey fish: Derivation of a national-scale common indicator of dietary mercury exposure for piscivorous fish and wildlife. Environmental Pollution 176: 234-243.

Additional background and references:

CARA Mercury Science Program.
Morrison, H.A. 2011. The Canadian Clean Air Regulatory Agenda Mercury Science Program. Ecotoxicology. 20: 1512-1519.

National Ecological Risk Asssessment for Mercury
Depew, D.C., Burgess, N.M., and Campbell, L.M. 2013c. Spatial patterns of methylmercury risks to common loons and piscivorous fish in Canada. Environmental Science Technology 47(22) 13093-13103.

The National Descriptive Model of Mercury in Fish (NDMMF):
Wente, S.P. 2004. A statistical Model and National Dataset for Partitioning Fish-tissue Mercury Concentration Between Spatio-temporal and Sample Characteristic Effects, United States Geological Survey Scientific Investigation Report 2004-5199, pp. 1-21.

USGS Environmental Mercury Mapping, Modeling, and Analysis (EMMMA) Website.

Dr. Linda Campbell
Associate Professor & Senior Research Fellow
Environmental Science
Saint Mary’s University
Halifax, Nova Scotia


This research was funded by the Environment Canada's Clean Air Regulatory Agenda (CARA) Mercury Science Program supplemented by an Natural Science & Engineering Research Council Discovery Grant to Dr. Linda Campbell.  Dr. David Depew carried out the bulk of the database compilation and publications, while Megan Little finalized the metadata and prepared the database for release.


Ontario Out of Doors Magazine "Mercury impacts loons and fish." (April 2014)  Link to jpeg of article. (This magazine goes to all Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters members)

Halifax Chronicle-Herald "Mercury risk worst for loons, fish in Eastern Canada, study finds" (November 3, 2013, Clare Mellor) Link.

CBC Radio One Mainstreet Nova Scotia "Mercury and loons"  (November 4, 2013, Stephanie Doucet). Rough transcription (PDF).

oceanbites blog "Top predators reveal the extent of mercury pollution in Canadian waters" (November 1, 2013, Samantha Decuollo) Link.

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