Investigation of metals and organic compounds in scallops and lobster harvested by Maliseet in New Brunswick

Fiscal Year



Wolastoqey Nation (Madawaska, Tobique, Kingsclear, Saint Mary’s, Oromocto and Woodstock), New Brunswick

Principal Investigator

Ave Dersch, Ph.D., Moccasin Flower Consulting

Community Project Lead

Ave Dersch, Ph.D., Moccasin Flower Consulting

Project Members

Claire McAuley, M.Sc., Intrinsik Corp. and Shyla O’Donnell



Project Summary

Wolastoqey Nation, which includes six communities (Madawaska, Tobique, Kingsclear, Saint Mary’s, Oromocto, Woodstock), was concerned about the quality of lobster and scallops harvested near Port Saint John. Port Saint John is an industrial harbour that has been operational since the early 1900s. Ongoing clean-up efforts have resulted in dredge piles and the removal of some contaminated sediments.

The purpose of this project was to investigate the quality of lobsters and scallops used for food, social and ceremonial purposes that were harvested in Lobster Fishing Area 36 and Scallop Fishing Area 28B to determine if heavy metal and organic contaminants are within safe levels.

Samples of lobsters and scallops (meat and organ tissue (hepatopancreas)) harvested near Port Saint John were collected and analyzed for polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and a suite of 19 metals, including arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury. A dietary survey was completed by particpants from  St. Mary’s First Nation, to collect information on seafood consumption. A human health risk assessment was conducted, and community-specific benchmark lobster and scallop consumption rates were determined.

The results of this project showed that the measured metal and PCB concentrations in the lobster and scallops sampled were generally low and below guideline levels established for food safety. Lobster digestive glands (hepatopancreas) had higher concentrations of metals and PCBs than lobster muscle. However, none of the dietary survey respondents  reported that they ate more than the benchmark amount. The study recommended that members of the Wolastoqey communities continue to consume lobster muscle and scallops in the reported amounts, whereas lobster digestive glands should be eaten as a delicacy in small quantities.