Red Deer watershed infected with whirling disease

Canadian food inspectors announced whirling disease affecting Red Deer River watershed

Whirling disease has infected the Red Deer River watershed.

The announcement was made June 23 by the the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), adding that it’s not harmful to humans.

Where it does affect is in the juvenile trout and whitefish populations, states a press release. “The declaration covers all streams, creeks, lakes and rivers feeding into the Red Deer River, ending at the Saskatchewan border.”

The announcement comes not long after the announcement of $9.3 million in funding to the province’s action plan to prevent the disease.

“The CFIA’s announcement follows declarations of infection in the Bow and Oldman River watersheds. Whirling disease was first discovered in Banff National Park in September 2016,” adds the release.

The province is working to mitigate the issue. Along with the funding, additional staff have been hired throughout Alberta to help with mitigation and education efforts.

“New declarations of whirling disease are not necessarily evidence the disease is currently spreading,” adds the release. “But reason for increasing awareness of the need to clean, drain, and dry any equipment that comes into contact with water.”

The goal is to ensure a strong wild trout and whitefish population along the rivers in Alberta, however, no plans have been made to adjust fishing regulations so far.

“Maintaining low prevalence of the disease where possible reduces the threat to wild trout populations.”

There are three areas of focus in the province’s whirling disease action plan.

Detection and delineation: Working with 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.

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: Actions taken 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.