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CKISS urging anglers to help prevent spread of whirling disease

The Central Kootenay Invasive Species Society (CKISS) is asking anglers to do their part in keeping an invasive parasite from spreading to local waterways.

“This urgent call comes in response to Parks Canada’s decision to close all bodies of water in British Columbia’s Kootenay and Yoho National Parks, with restrictions on watercraft in Alberta’s Waterton Lakes National Park until at least March next year,” said CKISS officials.

B.C. government officials said whirling disease is caused by Myxobolus cerebralis, a microscopic parasite that attaches itself to fish and aquatic worms.

“Whirling disease, caused by a microscopic parasite, poses a severe threat to fish populations, particularly trout, salmon, and whitefish,” said CKISS officials.

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“The disease leads to skeletal deformities, resulting in a tail-chasing behaviour that can be fatal, potentially affecting up to 90 per cent of juvenile fish.”

Whirling disease can enter new waterways through a few different avenues: moving infected fish or their body parts, contaminated fishing or boating gear or natural water flow, such as streams or rivers.

There are a few ways you can help curb the spread of whirling disease:

  • Never move fish or fish parts between waterbodies.
  • Use designated fish-cleaning stations or dispose of fish parts in local solid waste systems.
  • Follow the Clean, Drain, Dry protocol before transferring any equipment between waterbodies.
  • Never release any pet fish into a natural area. Rehome it or ask a local pet store to adopt the fish.
  • If you suspect whirling disease in a fish, report it immediately to the RAPP line at 1-877-952-7277.

“Prevention is our best defence against the spread of Whirling disease,” said Laurie Frankcom, CKISS Education Program Coordinator.

“By taking proactive measures and adhering to these guidelines, we can protect our precious water ecosystems and the diverse aquatic life they support.”

The closures in Kootenay and Yoho National Parks were initially implemented by Parks Canada in Oct 2023.

“It underscores the collective responsibility to prevent the spread of Whirling disease and other invasive species that threaten our water ecosystems,” said CKISS.

Previous: Whirling disease prompts boating and angling ban in Yoho and Kootenay National Parks (Mar 19, 2024)

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