Aquatic Diseases and Kayaking

Whirling disease has been confirmed in numerous waterbodies across the foothills including the upper Bow River watershed. These findings mark the introduction of whirling disease to Canada. Whirling disease has the potential to severely impact populations of trout species, mountain whitefish and arctic grayling by causing skeletal deformations and “whirling” behaviour in fish, making them extremely susceptible to predation.
As river enthusiasts it is important that we take measures to stop the spread of whirling disease and other aquatic invasive species where we work and play. Equipment that we use in aquatic settings should be cleaned and disinfected after each use to reduce the risk of spreading the aquatic invasive species. Whirling disease can be transferred by any equipment that comes into contact with a waterbody, including:
• Boats, motors, trailers, ropes, and anchors,
• Waders and wading boots,
• Rubber boots, river shoes, and water gloves,
• Canoes, kayaks, paddle boards, paddles, and water sports equipment and clothing,
• Fishing rods, nets, minnow traps, fish buckets
• Off-highway vehicles, and
• Any other equipment, personnel, and pets (dogs) that come into contact with water.
The following are best practices will help you to meet the regulatory requirements that are now in effect in Alberta when playing in/near a waterbody:
• Remove all mud, sand, and plants from equipment before leaving the area.
• Clean, drain, and dry all equipment that came, or may have come into contact with water.
• Wash equipment with hot water; do not release wash water to municipal storm drains.
• Dry all equipment thoroughly, and allow at least 24 hours of exposure to direct sunlight (UV radiation).
• Wash dogs and swim attire thoroughly after each trip to the beach/lake/river.
• Never release caught fish or bait to a different waterbody than where caught from (as per the Fisheries (Alberta) Act).
If equipment is used in different waterbodies and cannot be adequately dried and disinfected, or there is insufficient drying time between uses, equipment (including booties, wet/dry suits, and clothing) should be disinfected with bleach or similar product. This practice is especially important for those of us that paddle in multiple rivers in a weekend and don’t have the opportunity to dry equipment in between uses.
Aquatic invasive species are regulated in Alberta. The transfer or release of an aquatic invasive species to Alberta waters is a provincial offence and if found guilty, individuals can face fines up to $100,000 and one year in prison. Please also remember that as of 2015 all watercraft (everything from paddle boards, kayaks, and canoes, to motor and sail boats) must be inspected when entering the province and/or passing an open watercraft inspection station. Failure to stop at these stations can result in monetary fines.
When on the highway, the Government of Alberta has made the following requirements for the transport of boats:
• Drain plugs (if equipped) must be out or removed from boats, and
• Boats must be drained and dried of river water.
Information on whirling disease in Alberta can be found here:
Information on aquatic invasive species can be found here:
Information on watercraft inspection stations can be found here:
Thank you for your time,
Joel Gervais
AWA Environment and Facilities Chairperson