Ringed Seal Monitoring Program

Temporal trends of persistent organic pollutants and metals in ringed seals from the Canadian Arctic

Local Contact:
Liz Pijogge
Nain Research Centre
Project Contact:
Derek Muir
Environment Canada


The purpose of this Northern Contaminants Program (NCP) funded study is to understand how concentrations of contaminants, such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and other persistent organic pollutants (POPs), as well as mercury, are changing over time in ringed seals and if contaminant trends are similar across the Canadian Arctic.


All sample collection is done by local harvesters and coordinated by the Nain Research Centre, which is supplied with sampling kits and instructions for the harvesters. Harvested seals are brought to the Research Centre, where samples of muscle (meat), fat, liver, stomach contents and the jaw (for aging) are collected and shipped to laboratories throughout Canada for analysis. The harvester documents gender, length, girth and thickness of fat of the seal, as well as any other observations.

Current results show that concentrations of mercury in ringed seal from Nunatsiavut are very low and that ringed seals are a healthy and safe choice for country food for Nunatsiavvimiut.

This project partners with the Youth Outreach Program and the Nain Community Freezer. Youth from the program participate in the harvesting and sample preparation, with all parts of the seal, after sampling, going to the community freezer.

The larger NCP project currently involves annual sampling at Sachs Harbour, Resolute and Arviat using the same methods.