Alberta's Whirling Disease Program



it seems to me there are several big issues surrounding whirling disease that we would like some answers to how long has the disease been in Alberta where is it located and what can we do to prevent its spread unfortunately some of those questions may never be answered we don't know when it got here we did have a Prevention Program in place with monitoring until about 2002 and so I would say we probably didn't have it before then best case scenario it's been here for a while and it doesn't seem to be impacting the wild trout having found it only last summer we haven't seen any major population declines or recruitment issues in the wild trout populations it is a big priority of the season moving ahead I will be hiring staff and really spending a lot of time working on that issue and trying to dig down into what kind of impact will it have here in Alberta whirling disease is a microscopic parasite that affects salminen fish it was detected for the first time in Canada Johnson Lake in Banff National Park in August 2016 the disease poses a serious threat to trout and mountain whitefish in Alberta as it can cause deformities affecting the ability of fish to swim eat and escape predators and often resulting in mortalities so the next obvious question is what can we do about it there are some answers on that front perhaps the first stage is determining where whirling disease is located so whirling disease is really tricky because you can't just sample the water for the presence of whirling disease you actually have to sample the fish so that's why we see kind of a lag time in the the monitoring results because it's taking a while to process all these fish that have to be sampled you have to actually analyze their tissue to see if they have whirling disease or not the government will continue to monitor watersheds for whirling disease and we'll update all of us on where new locations are found for the most up-to-date results search whirling disease at AEP Alberta CA opening the lines of communication between different provincial and federal agencies industry and the recreational community is another step that has been taken through our work with the whirling disease program we have actually established a whirling disease committee and the committee comprises of our federal and provincial partners but as well as key stakeholders we're able to have very good discussions and dialogue while dealing with whirling disease in the wild is one thing over 200 ponds are under a temporary suspension from stalking due to possible infected fish from some hatcheries we've been our risk management on those and have identified about 250 ponds that we feel are of high or water wisk to spreading or perpetuating the disease in alberta this has resulted in for private fish hatchery facilities being shut down and plans are well underway to ensure new biosecurity measures are put into place to reduce the chance of spreading whirling disease from a hatchery into fish habitat monitoring and testing are a cornerstone to Environment and Parks response to better understanding this disease to this and a field collection site was established at a recent fishing event in Fort Saskatchewan the collection site did a couple of things first it allowed researchers to talk directly with anglers and answer any questions they may have about the disease second biologists were able to get fish samples which will be analyzed at the new whirling disease laboratory located near Vegreville and these ones are heads usually we have full bodies but these are all from a start pond while analyzing tissue samples under a microscope may lead to eventually a better understanding of whirling disease it does little to help us prevent the spread this is where anglers government staff and contractors all have a role to play in fact the provincial government has come up with a deacon termination protocol for all government staff and contractors to ensure that the spread of whirling disease and other aquatic invasive species are not introduced or spread to water bodies across the province we are essentially adding on to our kind of boat focus clean drain and dry campaign by really targeting anglers and their gear with a clean drain dry your gear message and so that is really simple it's you know making sure that if you're fishing in positive waters you know consider having dedicated gear that you only use there so that you're not spreading it to other places the most important thing is that if you know that whirling diseases presents a your angler in the bow river try to have equipment waders that you only use in the bow river if possible you use felt soled waders which we do not recommend try to get the ones that you can you can actually replace the felt and clean them and dry them out before you use them again or just get the other hard you know hard sold boots and then making sure you're not carrying water around you're not carrying fish or fish parts the whirling disease can be transported by live fish by dead fish by fish parts so make sure that you're really vigilant about throwing things in the trash at the source not picking them with you spending a day out on the water has just become a little bit more involved but failing to clean our equipment could lead to serious consequences down the road till next time I'm Michael short let's go outdoors you

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