Is mercury harming foxes in the Russian Arctic?

An Arctic fox hunts in the Norwegian Arctic. (Gregory Tervel)
An Arctic fox hunts in the Norwegian Arctic. (Gregory Tervel)

Several studies in recent years have sounded the alarm on rising mercury levels in the Arctic ecosystem.

Now scientists have found another link between toxic chemicals and the Arctic environment with a new study focusing on Arctic foxes.

The research was conducted in the Russian Arctic and published in the journal PLOS one  and suggests that mercury levels may be harming Arctic foxes in the world’s circumpolar regions.

The study compared Arctic fox populations living inland in Iceland, with foxes living along coastal areas of islands east off Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula.

The Russian foxes had higher levels of contaminants in their systems than the Iceland foxes.

The research suggests that the higher mercury levels in Arctic marine life, the main food supply for foxes in coastal areas, may be responsible.

To read more about the study and its findings:

Mercury poisoning linked to decline in Arctic fox populations, Voice of Russia

Mercury exposure linked to dramatic decline in Arctic foxes, BBC

Related Links:

Researchers must be honest with Arctic peoples about food contaminants: doctor, Eye on the Arctic

Unravelling the Mercury Mystery, Emily Chung, CBC News

Toxic Metals in Whales Threat to Humans: US Study, The Associated Press

Salmon-fed sled dogs along Alaska’s Yukon River show signs of mercury, Alaska Dispatch


Eilís Quinn, Eye on the Arctic

Eilís Quinn is an award-winning journalist and manages Radio Canada International’s Eye on the Arctic news cooperation project. Eilís has reported from the Arctic regions of all eight circumpolar countries and has produced numerous documentary and multimedia series about climate change and the issues facing Indigenous peoples in the North.

Her investigative report "Death in the Arctic: A community grieves, a father fights for change," about the murder of Robert Adams, a 19-year-old Inuk man from Arctic Quebec, received the silver medal for “Best Investigative Article or Series” at the 2019 Canadian Online Publishing Awards. The project also received an honourable mention for excellence in reporting on trauma at the 2019 Dart Awards in New York City.

Her report “The Arctic Railway: Building a future or destroying a culture?” on the impact a multi-billion euro infrastructure project would have on Indigenous communities in Arctic Europe was a finalist at the 2019 Canadian Association of Journalists award in the online investigative category.

Her multimedia project on the health challenges in the Canadian Arctic, "Bridging the Divide," was a finalist at the 2012 Webby Awards.

Her work on climate change in the Arctic has also been featured on the TV science program Découverte, as well as Le Téléjournal, the French-Language CBC’s flagship news cast.

Eilís has worked for media organizations in Canada and the United States and as a TV host for the Discovery/BBC Worldwide series "Best in China."

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