Map of the Jackfish Bay Area of Concern

Jackfish Bay was designated as an Area of Concern in 1987 under the Canada-United States Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. Located on the north shore of Lake Superior, approximately 250 kilometers northeast of Thunder Bay, Ontario, the Area of Concern consists of a 14-kilometer stretch of Blackbird Creek; between the pulp mill in Terrace Bay and Jackfish Bay; Lakes “A” and Moberly Lake (Lake “C”), as well as Jackfish, Moberly and Tunnel Bays.

Jackfish Bay was originally listed as an Area of Concern due to degraded water quality and ecosystem health. Effluent from the pulp mill in Terrace Bay was the historical cause of poor water quality and aesthetics, degraded fish populations and fish habitat, contaminated sediment, and impairment of sediment-dwelling organisms.

The mill’s effluent quality greatly improved with the construction of a secondary treatment facility in 1989 and the phasing-out of elemental chlorine bleaching. In May 2011, Jackfish Bay was redesignated as an Area of Concern in Recovery (AOCiR), because all remedial actions to restore the environment had been completed, but it was determined more time was needed for further environmental recovery necessary to meet the delisting criteria (environmental quality objectives). A long-term monitoring plan is being implemented to track environmental recovery.

Detailed information on historical or more recent conditions within Jackfish Bay can be found in the Remedial Action Plan (RAP) reports, which have guided restoration and monitoring efforts in the Area of Concern.

Jackfish Bay Remedial Action Plan Timeline

1991: The Stage 1 Remedial Action Plan (RAP) Report
identified 8 beneficial uses as “impaired”, 7 as “not impaired” and 4 as “requiring further assessment”.

1998: The Stage 2 Remedial Strategies for Ecosystem Restoration Report
identified 8 beneficial uses which remained “impaired”, 8 were listed as “not impaired” and 3 were “requiring further assessment”.

2011: Jackfish Bay Area of Concern in Recovery Status Report
identified 4 beneficial uses which remained “impaired”, 12 were listed as “not impaired” and 3 “requiring further assessment”. The remaining impairments included: degradation of fish populations, dynamics of benthic populations, body burdens of benthic populations and the loss of fish habitat. Those requiring further assessment included: fish consumption, body burdens of fish, and the degradation of aesthetics.

The designation as an Area of Concern in Recovery was announced at the Terrace Bay Green Trade Show (May 14th, 2011) with members of the Public Area in Recovery Review Committee (PARRC), municipal officials, federal and provincial representatives, and area residents joining together to celebrate this announcement.

Jackfish Bay Area of Concern in Recovery (AOCiR)

Trailer for the 40-minute Jackfish Bay/Terrace Bay/Schreiber History Project created by W.P. Skrepichuk for the Jackfish Bay Remedial Action Plan. Trailer vocals and music courtesy of Jamie Gerow.

The AOC was redesignated as an Area in Recovery in 2011 based on community and government consensus that all the scientifically feasible and economically reasonable remedial actions had been implemented, and additional time was required for the environment to recover.

In order to assess changes over time to confirm that natural recovery is occuring, a Long-Term Monitoring Plan was developed with Canada, Ontario, and partner organizations continuing to monitor the following environmental components:

  • contaminated sediment and water quality in Jackfish Bay, including inputs from Blackbird Creek;
  • benthic community health (i.e., bugs and worms living on the lake bottom) in Jackfish Bay;
  • contaminant levels in fish and overall fish health within Jackfish Bay; and
  • current aesthetics (i.e., water colour/clarity, water odour, presence of foam/debris) in Jackfish Bay.

Results of these monitoring studies indicate that water and sediment quality in Jackfish Bay has improved. Fish species such as lake trout and lake whitefish are abundant within Jackfish Bay and a growing brook trout population has been observed. These are good indications that fish populations are recovering within the AOCiR. The quality of wastewater from the area pulp mill has improved in recent decades and it is continued to be monitored.

In the meantime, the mill continues to be subject to environmental protection legislation under the Ontario Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks (MECP) and Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC). Under the MECP regulations, the mill effluent discharge is to meet specific parameter limits, sampling and reporting requirements, as well as the requirements of O.Reg. 760/93: Effluent Monitoring and Effluent Limits – Pulp and Paper Sector discharging through Municipal and Industrial Strategy for Abatement (MISA) Sampling Points. MECP also requires that environmental effects monitoring be undertaken by the mill. Under ECCC regulations, the mill effluent discharge is required to meet effluent quality limits set by the Pulp and Paper Effluent regulations, and the mill must evaluate the effects of effluent on fish and fish habitat as part of the federal Environmental Effects Monitoring program. The information is used to determine the effectiveness of pollution prevention and control measures.

Canada, Ontario and partner organizations will continue to assess fish and benthic invertebrate health, water and sediment quality and aesthetic conditions in the AOCiR as part of the Long-term Monitoring Plan.

When monitoring assessments confirm ecosystem health has improved such that the delisting criteria (environmental quality objectives) are being met, Canada and Ontario will engage the local community and First Nations and Métis organizations  on whether beneficial use impairments can be changed to “not impaired” status, and ultimately, for Jackfish Bay to be removed (or “delisted) from the list Areas of Concern.

Historic Photos of Jackfish Bay (pre-1930s)

Historic Photos of Blackbird Creek (1980s)

KEY DOCUMENTS relating to Jackfish Bay

AVTB Presentation (October 2016)
Aditya Birla presentation at a public meeting (October 19, 2016) providing an update on the effluent treatment at the AV Terrace Bay mill
Jackfish Bay Monitoring Update (October 2016)
Environment and Climate Change Canada presentation at a public meeting (October 14, 2016) providing an update on monitoring in Jackfish Bay.
Benthic Conditions in Jackfish Bay, 2003-2013 (ECCC 2016)
An evaluation of benthic conditions in 2013 compared to those in 2003. An update with 2019 fieldwork data is being drafted, and will provide insight into improvements over time.
Historical Decline in PCDD/Fs in Fish and Sediment in Response to Process Changes at Pulp Mill (Dahmer et. al 2015)
Study of the decline of polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins and dibenzofurans (PCDD/F) in fish and sediment of the Jackfish Bay area. This paper discusses process changes made at the local bleached kraft pulp mill and its effects on ecosystem recovery.
Jackfish Bay Long-term Monitoring Plan (2010)
Developed to track recovery in Jackfish Bay and fulfill Canada and Ontario’s commitment for a long-term monitoring plan for Jackfish Bay, as outlined in the 2007 Canada-Ontario Agreement Respecting the Great Lakes Basin Ecosystem. 

The plan identifes monitoring needs for Beneficial Use Impairments (BUIs) still in place for the Area of Concern in Recovery including: Restrictions on fish consumption, Degradation of fish populations, Loss of fish habitat, and Degradation of benthos.

Stage 2 Update – Area in Recovery Status Report (2010)
An update on conditions within Jackfish Bay since the Stage 2 Report (1998) and the record of designation into an Area of Concern in Recovery.
Stage 2 Remedial Action Plan Report (1998)
The Stage 2 report lays out the remedial strategies for ecosystem restoration within the Jackfish Bay Area of Concern
Stage 1 Remedial Action Plan Report (1991)
The Stage 1 report describes the environmental conditions in the Jackfish Bay Area of Concern and defines the problems.

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