Freshwater Clam Population Declining In Area Waterways: Study

The population of freshwater clams in our area waterways is declining.

Since May 2017, McMurray Mtis Elders and land users have been studying this issue in the Athabasca and Clearwater Rivers along with Gregorie Lake.

McMurray Mtis Elder and Project Lead Harvey Sykes says their study, rooted in Indigenous Knowledge, is in its infancy and this is only the first chapter of an on-going and ever-growing story.

“We used community-based methods linking Traditional Knowledge and Western science to monitor freshwater clams in the oilsands region.”

The research, which was recently published in the Journal of Ethnobiology, states for Indigenous Knowledge holders, freshwater mussels are an important strand that is necessary to the web of life. It notes if you don’t see clams (mussels), you know something is wrong with the water or with the fish.

“Sometimes I think they [the mussels] have more brains than us, because they clarify the water, [and] what we do is put the stuff in the water that shouldn’t be there. And they are getting stressed out. And I believe that is one reason why they are disappearing,” said Sykes in the report.

The academic article states, in North America, it’s estimated that approximately 72 per cent of freshwater mussels are considered threatened, endangered, or extinct, and 65 per cent of the 50 species found in Canada are in need of conservation.

In partnership with the government of Alberta, the clam team has been approved for additional funding to continue their research.

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