How whirling disease is spread

Whirling disease can be transmitted 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

The movement of fish, mud and water can potentially spread whirling disease. 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 water body 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, in your kitchen garburator.
  • 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" because it is illegal to transport 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.

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 Watercraft and Equipment 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).

Notifying staff and stakeholders of the most up-to-date potential detections in the province provides a precautionary approach for curbing the spread of whirling disease in the province associated with the movement of contaminated vehicles, boats and equipment.

Government of Alberta field staff will be using this protocol, as well as contractors or permit holders, and we encourage industry, stakeholders and recreational users to adopt these preventative practices as well.

Related Datasets – Decontamination Risk Zone Map

This HUC6 dataset is only one of the HUC feature classes available and was current as of September 2017. The full metadata for the Hydrologic Unit Code (HUC) Watersheds of Alberta is available on the GeoDiscover Alberta website at:

Other Supporting Resources – Decontamination Protocol


To connect with the Whirling Disease Program email

You can also contact the Aquatic Invasive Species Hotline at:

Phone: 1-855-336-BOAT(2628)

For a copy of the entire HUC dataset, please contact:

Data Distribution Unit
Alberta Environment and Parks