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WHIRLING DISEASE - A New Threat to Pacific Salmon.

Please see the following from our DFO Community Advisor Gillian Steele.

Hello SEP Hatchery Partners,


As some of you may have heard Whirling Disease has now entered British Columbia near the Alberta border in portions of the Columbia watershed. This disease is the result of a parasite that enters the head and spine of salmonids that can result in up to a 90% mortality rate in juveniles. At this time, the disease has only been detected in the most eastern portion of our Province and has not been identified in any areas where DFO SEP operates hatcheries. It is important we understand this disease and take the necessary precautions to prevent its spread. This disease can be devastating to salmonid populations and it is of major concern that it has now crossed into British Columbia.


Most obvious symptoms of Whirling Disease:

  • Crooked Spine

  • Sloped head or shortened operculum (gill cover)

  • ‘Whirling’ swimming behavior/

  • Darkened tail


Things of Note:

  • There is no need for drastic action at SEP supported hatchery facilities as whirling disease had not been detected in watersheds where SEP operates or supports hatcheries.

  • Based on this geographical consideration, with proper mitigation measures, the risk of exposure of SEP hatchery facilities to whirling disease is currently low.

  • It is important to increase overall awareness of the disease and its symptoms as well as its risks.

  • All hatchery staff must be familiar with and follow biosecurity requirements. Hatchery biosecurity requirements should be reviewed and updated as necessary. CIP staff are available to provide support.

  • Elevated precautions and mitigative measures should be implemented.

·        Whirling disease is a reportable disease. If potential presence of the disease is suspected in a partner facility, the CA or Support Biologist should be notified immediately. They will then notify the SEP Veterinarian responsible for sampling, diagnostics, and mandatory reporting to CFIA.

  • All facilities should work carefully with CAs on any plans for movement of fish or gear between waterbodies,

This detection, and our understanding of whirling disease in British Columbia, is still in its infancy so information as well as proper protocols are developing as we speak. Whenever I receive new or updated information, I will share with you immediately. Hatchery managers, if you have any concerns or would like more information please do not hesitate to reach out via email or phone, or we can talk when I am onsite next (or we can schedule a visit). If you have any concerns or see something within the hatchery that is of note please contact myself, Eric, or Grace (emails in CC).

This email is not intended to scare anyone, but more to keep everyone aware and in the loop. With good biosecurity protocols, and conscious handling/transport practices we should be able to keep Whirling Disease out of our SEP facilities!


Gillian Steele

Acting Community Advisor, Community Involvement Program

Salmon Enhancement Program – Lower Fraser

Fisheries and Oceans Canada

Phone: 236-339-5612

IS008 - Whirling Disease - Myxobolus cerebralis - Detected in BC
Download PDF • 269KB

Letter to FWLB licence holders on Whirling disease
Download PDF • 202KB

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