Prioritization of Pesticides for Assessment of Risk to Aquatic Ecosystems in Canada and Identification of Knowledge Gaps
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Pesticides can enter aquatic environments via direct application, via overspray or drift during application, or by runoff or leaching from fields during rain events, where they can have unintended effects on non-target aquatic biota. As such, Fisheries and Oceans Canada identified a need to prioritize current-use pesticides based on potential risks towards fish, their prey species, and habitats in Canada. A literature review was conducted to: (1) Identify current-use pesticides of concern for Canadian marine and freshwater environments based on use and environmental presence in Canada, (2) Outline current knowledge on the biological effects of the pesticides of concern, and (3) Identify general data gaps specific to biological effects of pesticides on aquatic species. Prioritization was based upon recent sales data, measured concentrations in Canadian aquatic environments between 2000 and 2020, and inherent toxicity as represented by aquatic guideline values. Prioritization identified 55 pesticides for further research nationally. Based on rank, a sub-group of seven were chosen as the top-priority pesticides, including three herbicides (atrazine, diquat, and S-metolachlor), three insecticides (chlorpyrifos, clothianidin, and permethrin), and one fungicide (chlorothalonil). A number of knowledge gaps became apparent through this process, including gaps in our understanding of sub-lethal toxicity, environmental fate, species sensitivity distributions, and/or surface water concentrations for each of the active ingredients reviewed. More generally, we identified a need for more baseline fish and fish habitat data, ongoing environmental monitoring, development of marine and sediment-toxicity benchmarks, improved study design including sufficiently low method detection limits, and collaboration around accessible data reporting and management.
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