Presence of whirling disease discovered in Red Deer River watershed
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