Whirlpool Lake in Riding Mountain National Park is closed to public

Potential Zebra Mussel eDNA identified in water samples

Wasagaming, Manitoba, May 9, 2018  – To ensure the ongoing protection of Riding Mountain National Park from invasive zebra mussels, Whirlpool Lake and campground area will remain closed for the 2018 season as a precautionary measure. Parks Canada is also temporarily closing the east portion of the Cowan Lake trail from the Cowan Lake backcountry campsite to Whirlpool Lake. This area closure includes a prohibition of all watercraft (canoes, kayaks, etc.) on Whirlpool Lake. 

Whirlpool closure area

Water samples taken this summer and fall from Whirlpool Lake tested positive for potential Environmental DNA (eDNA) evidence of zebra mussels. Environmental DNA are microscopic genetic traces that an organism leaves behind as it moves through an environment. The approach Parks Canada is taking to close a lake with positive eDNA results follows international standards to prevent the spread of the invasive species. 

Zebra mussels were first confirmed in Manitoba in Lake Winnipeg in 2013, and there is a high threat that they will spread to other lakes in the province. It is important to note that live zebra mussels have not been found in Riding Mountain National Park and eDNA does not confirm a viable population. Multiple tests have been conducted and show no presence of zebra mussel veligers (larvae). Further testing will be conducted this summer.

In managing national parks, Parks Canada maintains or restores the ecological integrity of both land and water. Parks Canada takes this matter seriously and we are vigilant in our efforts to prevent the introduction of zebra mussels to waters in Riding Mountain National Park. Staff will continue to monitor the situation closely and take action if a positive result is found.

This precautionary closure is consistent with the high standard of care that Parks Canada continues to demonstrate through its Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) Prevention Program at Riding Mountain National Park. This program incorporates proactive monitoring, vigilant inspection, and careful decontamination of watercraft. Lakes in Riding Mountain National Park are tested routinely for zebra mussel eDNA and veligers.

As part of our extensive AIS Prevention Program, all motorized and non-motorized watercraft (including canoes and kayaks, etc.) entering Riding Mountain National Park waters must undergo a mandatory inspection for aquatic invasive species. The service is free of charge and watercraft passing inspection will receive a permit from Parks Canada watercraft inspectors.

Parks Canada appreciates the cooperation of watercraft operators in preventing this threat to park waters. One hundred per cent compliance is essential and necessary to ensure the ecological integrity of park waterways. It only takes one contaminated watercraft to transport zebra mussels and other aquatic invasive species into the park.


 

Questions and Answers

Q1. Have zebra mussels been discovered in Whirlpool Lake?

A1. Water samples taken this summer and fall from Whirlpool Lake tested positive for potential Environmental DNA (eDNA) evidence of zebra mussel. No live zebra mussels nor veligers (larvae) have been found and eDNA does not confirm a viable population. 

The water samples indicate a strong likelihood of zebra mussel eDNA (environmental DNA). Additional testing from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans has confirmed the positive result. This has prompted the precautionary closure of the lake and campground area in accordance with international standards. Further testing will be conducted in 2018. 

Q2. What are the Parks Canada management actions in response to the potential positive results in Whirlpool Lake?

A2. Zebra mussels were first confirmed in Manitoba in Lake Winnipeg in 2013, and there is a high threat that they will spread to other lakes in the province. Parks Canada takes this matter seriously and we are vigilant in our efforts to prevent the introduction of zebra mussels to waters in Riding Mountain National Park. 

As a precautionary measure, Parks Canada is closing Whirlpool Lake and the campground area in Riding Mountain National Park (RMNP) until further notice. This area closure includes a prohibition of all watercraft (canoes, kayaks, etc.) on Whirlpool Lake to ensure the ongoing protection of the Park from invasive zebra mussels. 

The approach Parks Canada is taking to closure of a lake with positive eDNA results follows international standards to prevent the spread of the invasive species and is consistent with the high standard of care that Riding Mountain National Park continues to demonstrate through its Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) Prevention Program. 

We have introduced enhanced surveillance techniques over the last several years through our Aquatic Invasive Species Prevention Program. This program incorporates proactive monitoring, vigilant inspection, and careful decontamination of watercraft. Lakes in Riding Mountain National Park are tested routinely for zebra mussel eDNA and veligers. Parks Canada will continue to monitor the situation closely and take action if a positive result is found.

Q3. Why do you need to close the campground when the issue only seems to be with the lake?

A3. Restricting access to the area will prevent watercraft from being launched illegally while the closure is in place and facilitate ongoing ecological monitoring and further testing. 

Q4. What is eDNA?

A4. Environmental DNA (eDNA) are microscopic genetic traces - or DNA - that an organism leaves behind as it moves through an environment. eDNA is a tool used by researchers to detect the occurrence of organisms that do not normally belong to an ecosystem. The method is an efficient and cost-effective alternative to standard surveying methods over large areas in aquatic environments and is a valuable tool in monitoring programs.

Q5. What are zebra mussels?

A5. Zebra mussels are small, clam-like aquatic animals native to Eastern Europe and Western Asia. They are 1-3 cm (0.4 -1.2 inches) long, have triangular or “D” shaped shells, and most have light and dark brown bands on their shells.

Q6. What precautions can visitors take when using watercraft in RMNP?

A6. As part of our extensive Aquatic Invasive Species Prevention Program, all motorized and non-motorized watercraft entering Riding Mountain National Park waters are required to undergo an inspection for aquatic invasive species. The service is free of charge and watercraft passing inspection will receive a permit from Parks Canada watercraft inspectors. As the area is closed, watercraft (canoes, kayaks, etc.) are not permitted on Whirlpool Lake.

Q7. What is the risk to waterbodies in and outside of RMNP?

A7. Zebra mussels were first confirmed in Manitoba in Lake Winnipeg in 2013, and there is a high threat that they will spread to other lakes in the province. The consequences of zebra mussel establishment in Riding Mountain National Park include a permanent ecological state change, damage to water/wastewater infrastructure, increased long-term costs within the park and adjacent rural municipalities, communities and industries, indefinite infected lake closures, loss of recreational opportunities, and decrease of cottage and business property value.

Q8. How long will Whirlpool Lake and area be closed? Will other waterbodies in the park be closed to as well?

A8. Whirlpool Lake will be closed until further notice. There are currently no plans to close other lakes in the park.


Information:

Trish Johnston
Public Relations & Communications Officer 
Riding Mountain National Park
Parks Canada
204-848-7248
trish.johnston@pc.gc.ca

Media Relations
Parks Canada Agency 
855-862-1812
pc.media@pc.gc.ca