What is the Northern Contaminants Program?

A map of the world displaying the location of Fox Lake in Canada's Yukon.

The monitoring site at Little Fox Lake is one of many stations across the globe. Located in Southern Yukon, Little Fox Lake is situated close to monitoring stations in Barrow, Dillingham, and Fairbanks in Alaska. Other monitoring stations exist in Valkarkai, Tikai and Amderma, Russia; Waliguan, Wudalianchi, Mount Changbai and Xuencheng, China; Ba Vi, Vietnam; Hateruma, Japan; Alert, Nunavut; and Ny-Ålesund, Norway.

An illustration of the build up of contaminants in fish populations over time.

Since many contaminants are very small, they can easily become attached to fine sediment or nutrients. These are filtered and eaten by zooplankton, which are in turn eaten in by small fish. When large fish eat these small fish, they take in all the contaminants that have been built up in the small fish – a result of eating large amounts of plankton. Most contaminants are stored in the fatty tissue of fish -- a process called bioaccumulation. In general contaminant levels increase in larger fish.

Flowchart illustration of the various activities and projects that NCP manages, as described in the following sections.

The Northern Contaminants Program funds a number of projects, including air measurements at Little Fox Lake, fish monitoring in Lake Laberge and Kusawa Lake, and Moose and caribou monitoring. These research programs provide information back to the Northern Contaminants Program and also to educational institutions such as Yukon College and Trent University. The Northern Contaminants Program then provides the research across the world through publications developed by the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program.

A map of the Arctic circumpolar region displaying countries in this region, including Canada, Denmark/Greenland, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden, and the United States.

This map shows the eight Arctic Countries involved in the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme: Canada, Finland, Greenland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden, and the United States.