Thursday, 04 May 2017 22:16

ACA Fish stocking program impacted by Whirling Disease

Written by Michael Short
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Todd Zimmerling, CEO - Alberta Conservation Association Todd Zimmerling, CEO - Alberta Conservation Association

According to ACA president and CEO Todd Zimmerling a total of 11 water bodies will be taken off the fish stocking program due to the potential they may be infected with Whirling disease.

Still there are an additional 50 water bodies that have not been affected so plans to stock them are moving forward. A total of 70,000 trout will be introduced to these ponds

Video Interview with Todd Zimmerling

Whirling Disease Life Cycle poster - Alberta Government

Whirling disease in Oldman watershed & Waterton National Park

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has declared the Oldman River watershed infected with whirling disease.

The declaration covers all streams, creeks, lakes and rivers feeding into the Oldman River, including those in Waterton Lakes National Park. The affected zone ends at the confluence of the Oldman River and South Saskatchewan River.

Areas in Alberta outside the Bow River and Oldman River watersheds were previously declared as a buffer area and are not affected by today’s declaration. 

Whirling disease action plan

The CFIA’s announcement follows a declaration of infection in the Bow River watershed in February. New detections of whirling disease from ongoing sampling and testing should not be taken as evidence the disease is spreading.

The province is continuing to stress the importance of steps to prevent the spread of whirling disease and aquatic invasive species. All motorized boats should have drain plugs pulled while in transportation. Bait fish should not be released.

Alberta’s whirling disease action plan is focused on three pillars:

  • Detection and Delineation: Working with the CFIA to determine the full extent of whirling disease. A whirling disease committee has also been established to address the long-term management of the disease.
  • Education: Public engagement, 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.
  • Mitigation: To receive CFIA permits to stock fish from the infected area to locations outside of the infected zone, all Class A fish farms and provincial aquaculture facilities must implement approved biosecurity protocols and test negative for whirling disease.

There are currently no plans to make changes to fishing regulations in the Oldman River basin.

Quick facts

  • The CFIA first confirmed the presence of whirling disease in the upper Bow River in September 2016.
  • Impacts vary between fish species and different water bodies.
  • In Alberta, rainbow, westslope cutthroat and brook trout, as well as mountain whitefish, are most susceptible to the disease.
  • Affected fish may show no symptoms or exhibit any of the following signs:
    • whirling swimming pattern
    • skeletal deformities of the body or head; for example, shortening of the mandible, sloped forehead and crooked spine
    • tail may appear dark or even black
  • There are no human health concerns for people using the bodies of water that contain whirling disease; it is not harmful to humans. There are no health concerns for anglers ingesting fish that have contracted this disease.
  • There are no treatment options for whirling disease. Responding to the disease involves determining where it exists and preventing its spread.

 If you suspect a case of whirling disease, call 1-855-336-BOAT (2628).

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