How whirling disease is spread
Whirling disease can be spread from infected locations to other water bodies through:
- equipment used for boating, fishing, paddling, scuba diving, swimming and water pumping
- infected fish and fish parts
- movement of mud, sand and water
While this disease is not harmful to humans or other mammals, it can have significant effects on some fish populations.
Best practices for stopping the spread
These practices should be completed before leaving any waterbody, not just in the infected areas of Alberta.
Everyone, including anglers, boaters and recreational water users can help stop the spread of whirling disease by following these best practices:
- Never move live or dead fish, or fish parts from one waterbody to another (this is illegal in Alberta).
- Use fish cleaning stations where available or put fish parts in the garbage. Never dispose of fish, or any fish parts, back into the water they were captured or into your kitchen garburator when home.
- It is illegal to use live fish as bait. The use of worms or leeches as bait should be avoided as well.
Clean, drain and dry your watercraft and equipment
Before moving a boat or any equipment (such as hip waders, life jackets, kayaks, etc.) between water bodies, be sure to:
- clean your watercraft or any equipment that has been in contact with water
- drain water from the watercraft and equipment onto dry land before leaving the shore
- dry your watercraft and equipment completely between trips
Remember to "Pull the Plug" - it is illegal to transport a watercraft with the drain plug still in place.
For more details on cleaning, draining and drying your watercraft and water equipment, see:
Equipment decontamination protocols
Beyond the best practices listed above, 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.
In August 2020 the Decontamination Protocol was updated to include Appendix D: Decontamination Instructions of Industrial and Construction Operations for the use by external stakeholders.
Decontamination protocol guides
‘Early Detection, Rapid Response’ activities play an important role in reducing the further spread of local invasive species or wildlife disease.
In an effort to contain early detections of whirling disease within the affected area, the Government of Alberta has developed a Decontamination protocol for work in or near water for staff and stakeholders.
The Decontamination Protocol is linked to the Decontamination Risk Zone Map, which includes recent detections of ‘suspect positives’ not yet confirmed by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA).
All field operations that are completing work in or near water need to follow the applicable sections of this protocol depending on the work they are completing and the location. All equipment, gear and vehicles that are used in or near water must be properly decontaminated. The protocol will be used by Government of Alberta field staff, contract and permit holders, industry and stakeholders and we encourage recreational users to adopt the Clean, Drain, Dray procedures.
Related Datasets – Decontamination Risk Zone Map
This HUC6 dataset is only one of the Hydrologic Unit Code (HUC) feature classes available and was current as of September 2017. The full metadata for the HUC Watersheds of Alberta is available on the GeoDiscover Alberta website at:
For a copy of the entire HUC dataset, email [email protected].
Other Supporting Resources – Decontamination Protocol
Connect with the Whirling Disease Program:
Email [email protected]
To report aquatic invasive species and diseases, call the Aquatic Invasive Species Hotline at:
Phone: 1-855-336-BOAT (2628)