Pres­ence of whirling dis­ease dis­cov­ered in Red Deer River wa­ter­shed

The Drumheller Mail - - AROUND TOWN - Pa­trick Ko­lafa The Drumheller Mail sub­mit­ted

Just a day af­ter the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment an­nounced the open­ing of a ded­i­cated lab­o­ra­tory for test­ing and pre­vent­ing whirling dis­ease, the Cana­dian Food In­spec­tion Agency (CFIA) has de­clared the Red Deer River Wa­ter­shed in­fected with the dis­ease.

On June 23, the CFIA an­nounced it has con­firmed the pres­ence of whirling dis­ease in the Red Deer River Wa­ter­shed. The dis­ease is present in the Bow River Basin af­ter be­ing de­tected in the Banff re­gion in 2016, and then the Old­man River wa­ter­shed.

The preva­lence of whirling dis­ease is not a risk to hu­man health

Jeff Zim­mer, lo­cal Fish and Wildlife of­fi­cer ex­plains the dis­ease is not deadly in it­self to aqua­cul­ture, but it does weaken lo­cal stocks.

“It ba­si­cally af­fects trout. It is a spore that gets into their sys­tem and af­fects the car­ti­lage in their tail area and leads to a kinked tail in the younger trout,” he ex­plains. “That’s why it is called whirling dis­ease be­cause it kinks their tail and they swim in cir­cles be­cause their tail doesn’t work ef­fec­tively and they end up get­ting eaten by big­ger fish, pel­i­cans or preda­tors.”

Ac­cord­ing to a news bul­letin from the Al­berta Envi- ron­ment and Parks says the dis­cov­ery does not nec­es­sar­ily mean the dis­ease is spread­ing, but it is a rea­son to spread aware­ness of the need to clean, drain and dry equip­ment that comes in con­tact with water.

“How it af­fects us in en- force­ment is we know it’s in the Bow River, so we have a de­con­tam­i­na­tion process. So, if we are us­ing a boat, we pull it up and to­tally de­con­tam­i­nated it, as well as our­selves and boots be­fore we go to an­other water body. We have been do­ing that for a while to pre­vent the spread,” he said.

He says in this area his con­cerns are with stocked bod­ies, such as Michichi Dam.

It can also be spread through preda­tors.

“That is prob­a­bly how it is spread­ing through birds, whether they are re­gur­gi­tat­ing fish that have these spores or through its dung,” he said.

Ac­cord­ing to a press re­lease Al­berta’s whirling dis­ease ac­tion plan is fo­cused on three pil­lars: Work­ing with the Cana­dian Food In­spec­tion Agency (CFIA) to de­ter­mine the full ex­tent of whirling dis­ease. A whirling dis­ease com­mit­tee has been es­tab­lished to ad­dress the long-term man­age­ment of the dis­ease.

work with stake­hold­ers and post­ing of ed­u­ca­tional ma­te­ri­als to pre­vent the spread of whirling dis­ease. This in­cludes the prov­ince’s Clean, Drain, Dry pub­lic aware­ness cam­paign. to pre­vent the spread, such as: CFIA permits to stock fish from the in­fected area to lo­ca­tions out­side of the in­fected zone, as well as all Class A fish farms and pro­vin­cial aqua­cul­ture fa­cil­i­ties im­ple­ment­ing ap­proved biose­cu­rity pro­to­cols and test­ing neg­a­tive for whirling dis­ease.

Whirling dis­ease, while not a threat to hu­mans, does have the po­ten­tial to af­fect lo­cal fish stocks

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