It seems so simple, almost too simple, how effective are the clean, drain and dry actions in preventing the spread of whirling disease and invasive species?
From oars to inner tubes and flippers to waders, any gear used in water can spread whirling disease or invasive species. By their very nature, aquatic diseases like whirling disease have qualities that allow them to spread and survive adverse conditions. For example, the whirling disease parasite is microscopic and survives in the environment up to 30 years. Whirling disease impacts fish populations, in the Western United States whirling disease caused up to 90% declines in wild fish populations.
The Clean, Drain and Dry practices provide simple and effective direction on how to prevent the spread of whirling disease and aquatic invasive species. Cleaning and draining remove microscopic aquatic organisms and the plants and mud that can shelter them. The best place to clean and drain is before leaving the shoreline, avoid draining near connections to waterbodies like storm drains or ditches. Always remember to “Pull the Plug” before you transport your watercraft. It’s mandatory in Alberta, you want to drain your boat not your wallet.
By cleaning and draining our gear we set the stage for the third step, drying. Taking a fish out of water is the same thing as taking microscopic aquatic organisms out of water, they don’t like it. Aquatic organisms are sensitive to low humidity and high temperatures so drying severely impacts them. While 24 hours of drying time in sunlight is recommended the more drying time the better.
Scientific studies show dirty gear, like boots and waders, can spread whirling disease. In one study, felt-soled wading boots covered in mud spread whirling disease to healthy trout populations. Another study found angling boots moved on average 8.39 grams of mud, it would take about 27 anglers to move one pound of mud between waterbodies.
Thousands of microscopic whirling disease spores could be present in a single gram of mud let alone a pound. The numbers get daunting when we consider how many anglers Alberta has and how few fishable lakes. With 800 fish-bearing lakes and 300 lakes stocked with trout, on average Alberta has about 375 anglers per fishable lake. By comparison, Saskatchewan has 1.9 anglers per lake. If all 375 anglers decided to visit a different lake they could introduce almost 7 lbs of mud. While not every angler uses wading boots, this example really illustrates how human actions can add up.
Cleaning, draining and drying are some of the best steps we can take to protect Alberta waters. Whether you work or play in Alberta waters, these waters are ours and ours to protect. Let’s take care of them and Clean, Drain and Dry our gear!
For more information:
- Prevent the Spread – http://aep.alberta.ca/fish-wildlife/wildlife-diseases/whirling-disease/stop-the-spread.aspx
- Clean, Drain Dry you Boat – http://aep.alberta.ca/recreation-public-use/boating/clean-drain-dry-your-boat.aspx