Repository logo

Ecotoxicological assessment of juvenile northern pike inhabiting lakes downstream of a uranium mill



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title




Degree Level



Previous studies on fishes exposed to effluent from the Key Lake uranium mill in northern Saskatchewan have demonstrated elevated lipids in young-of-the-year pike (Esox lucius), deformities in larval pike and decreased survival of fathead minnows (Pimephales promelas). The objectives of this thesis were to evaluate possible factors that could be contributing to altered bioenergetics of juvenile northern pike inhabiting lakes receiving effluent from the Key Lake operation and to examine the effects of effluent exposure on biomarkers of oxidative stress and histopathology of target organs. Although glycogen and triglycerides stores were significantly greater in pike from exposure lakes compared to the reference, triglycerides stores of juvenile pike prey items showed no overall differences among lakes. Measures of parasitism, however, were negatively correlated with pike bioenergetics thereby reflecting a possible energetic cost of parasitism on reference lake fish. The degree of infection by intestinal parasites and gill monogeneans was greatest in reference pike and intermediate in low exposure pike, whereas high exposure pike harboured no parasites. Arsenic, nickel and selenium are elevated in lakes downstream of the Key Lake mill and have been shown to be associated with increased reactive oxygen species (ROS) in biological systems causing oxidative stress. The potential for oxidative stress was assessed in pike liver and kidney using several biomarkers. Overall, the concentrations of total, reduced and oxidized glutathione and the ratio of oxidized to reduced glutathione did not differ significantly among exposure and reference pike. The activity of glutathione peroxidase was greater in high exposure than reference liver whereas, contrary to predictions, lipid peroxidation was greater in reference than exposure pike tissues. Histopathological evaluations revealed greater kidney and gill pathology in reference lake pike, whereas for liver, hepatocyte morphology differed among lakes without any clear signs of pathology. Trace metal analyses of muscle showed that eight elements (arsenic, cobalt, copper, iron, molybdenum, selenium, thallium, uranium) were significantly elevated in exposure pike. These results provide only limited evidence of oxidative stress in exposure pike tissues and no evidence of histopathology despite indications that metals are bioaccumulating in tissue. Overall, the results from this thesis suggest that the health and condition of juvenile northern pike living downstream of the Key Lake uranium mill may not be compromised by effluent exposure.



juvenile northern pike, uranium milling effluent, bioenergetics, oxidative stress, histopathology



Master of Science (M.Sc.)






Part Of