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Non-motorized watercraft no longer allowed into Waterton Lakes National Park: Parks Canada

Invasive zebra mussels are seen on a boat propeller in this file image. (Source: Parks Canada) Invasive zebra mussels are seen on a boat propeller in this file image. (Source: Parks Canada)

Parks Canada is introducing more strict rules for non-motorized water recreation and angling in Waterton Lakes National Park.

The federal organization announced updated aquatic invasive species (AIS) prevention measures and watercraft and angling restrictions in Waterton Lakes, Yoho and Kootenay National Parks for 2024 via an information bulletin on Tuesday.

Starting April 1, non-motorized watercraft from outside park boundaries will not be allowed into the park.

The new rules are being implemented to reduce the risk of aquatic invasive species being introduced due to the high recreational use of the park.

Non-motorized watercraft include canoes kayaks, rafts, stand-up paddle (SUP) boards (inflatable and hard), sailboats, paddle boats, belly boats, drift boats, windsurfers, kiteboards, inflatable watercraft, pedal assist kayaks, catamarans, catarafts and other amphibious watercraft.

Angling for fish will also no longer be permitted in flowing waters, such as streams and rivers, inside the park. Fishing in park lakes will continue based on the current regulations.

“Due to high recreation within the park and the places in which park visitors and their watercraft arrive from, these waters are at high risk for AIS introduction,” Parks Canada said in an information bulletin.

“Parks Canada is taking action now to protect park and regional waters from harmful aquatic invasive species, including invasive mussels and whirling disease.”

The bulletin noted that whirling disease is present downstream of the Waterton dam. It was detected in the park for the first time in 2023.

Yoho and Kootenay National Parks

Additionally, all waterbodies in Yoho and Kootenay National Parks will remain closed to watercraft and angling until March 25, 2025, to prevent the spread of whirling disease.

Parks officials reported a suspected case of whirling disease in Emerald Lake, located in Yoho National Park, on Sept. 20, 2023.

At the time, Emerald Lake, Peaceful Pond, Lone Duck Pond and the Emerald River shorelines, water bodies, and tributaries were closed until further notice.

After further investigation, officials discovered suspected cases of whirling disease in Kicking Horse River, Wapta Lake, Finn Creek, Monarch Creek and the confluence of Emerald River and the Kicking Horse River.

As a result, all waterbodies and shorelines in the park were closed until at least March 31.

Whirling disease is a parasitic disease that affects some fish, but does not present health risks for people or other mammals.

Parks Canada conducted an analysis over the winter months to determine the options to mitigate the risks posed by whirling disease.

“The closures are designed to help protect fish species vulnerable to whirling disease, including several trout species and Kokanee salmon,” the bulletin from Parks Canada reads.

“The closures will also provide Parks Canada with an opportunity to conduct further sampling and monitoring actions, which will inform future management actions.”

Whirling disease mortality rates can reach 90 per cent in young fish.

There is no treatment for the disease and it’s very difficult to eradicate once established, officials said. Top Stories

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