Whirling disease confirmed
Reducing the risk of spreading whirling disease
Confirmed detections of whirling disease – Alberta 2016
Prevent the spread of whirling disease  (PDF 7 MB)
Attention water enthusiasts  (PDF 184 KB)

Whirling disease confirmed

On August 23, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) confirmed the presence of whirling disease in fish from Johnson Lake in Banff National Park. This is the first occurrence of whirling disease in Canada confirmed by the CFIA under its responsibilities for aquatic animal health.

While awaiting laboratory test results, Parks Canada implemented initial containment measures to reduce any risk of the potential spread of the disease, including an Area Closure for Johnson Lake on August 18, 2016. This included two shoreline beach areas, the marsh flowing into the lake, and the outlets flowing out of Johnson Lake. The Area Closure remains in effect until further notice.

This disease is not harmful to humans but can have a significant impact on some fish populations. It can be transmitted to other water bodies through fish and fish parts, and gear or equipment used for swimming, paddling, boating and fishing.

Parks Canada is collaborating with the Province of Alberta and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to sample watersheds inside and outside of the park to determine whether the disease is present in other areas. This will allow for the continued development and implementation of an appropriate response plan. Parks Canada is also working closely with Alberta Environment and Parks to ensure any further detection is met with a swift and coordinated response.

Parks Canada would like to remind visitors that fish and fish parts caught while fishing should be properly disposed of and that all equipment and gear such as boats, trailers, waders, boots, float tubes, and fins should be cleaned both before and after recreating in any body of water. Rinse all mud and debris from equipment and gear, drain water from boats before leaving an area, and allow all equipment and gear to dry before entering another water body. By doing so, visitors can help to protect the ecological integrity of national parks.

For more information on whirling disease please visit Canadian Food Inspection Agency Whirling Disease Fact Sheet 

Reducing the risk of spreading whirling disease

Life cycle of whirling disease

Anglers, boaters and recreational water users can help reduce the risk of spreading whirling disease.

This disease is not harmful to humans or other mammals but can have significant effects on some fish populations. It can be transmitted from infected locations to other water bodies through equipment used for swimming, paddling, boating, water pumping, and fishing or through infected fish and fish parts themselves. In order of potential risk, from highest to lowest, it is the movement of fish, mud or sediment, and water that can spread whirling disease.

Please follow these best practices:

  • Never move live fish from one water body to another (this is illegal in the National Parks).
  • Use fish cleaning stations where available or put fish parts in the local solid waste system. Never move dead fish or parts between water bodies or dispose of them in your kitchen garburator.

After your day out

Clean off your equipment

Before leaving any waterbody, examine all your equipment, boats, trailers, clothing, boots, and buckets and remove all mud, sand and plant material.

Eliminate water from all equipment before transporting anywhere else

Most recreational equipment contains places that harbour water and aquatic parasites. Ensure you remove all water from every possible item before you leave the area. This includes boats, motors, boat hulls, bilges, boots, waders, and swimming floats. Once water is eliminated, cleaning and drying are required.

Before your next outing or before moving to new waters

Clean and dry anything that came in contact with water. This may not eliminate the spore life-stage of whirling disease, but can reduce the likelihood of transferring it to another water body.

Use hot water (as close to 90° C as possible) to clean your equipment and let dry. If hot water is not available, spray equipment with high pressure water but not at a commercial car wash. Water used for decontamination should be not sent into storm water drains or municipal water systems.

It is important to dry equipment thoroughly. If possible allow for a minimum of 24 hours of drying time in sunlight when possible before entering new waters.

Wash dogs with warm water and brush them thoroughly.

Aquatic researchers and professional angling guides

Additional cleaning and decontamination procedures are appropriate for researchers and professional angling guides. Improved cleaning protocols for those working in various water bodies, or handling fish daily, include the use of very hot water and chemical disinfectants. Please contact the Aquatic Invasive Species Hotline, 1-855-336-BOAT(2628) for additional information about any requirements associated with these types of activities.