Washington State and Oregon have just made unprecedented moves. Washington has closed all recreation fishing and Oregon has closed all their state parks from public access amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Social distancing in the wild just got a lot more difficult for anglers in the two Pacific Northwest states, who were among the first states with COVID-19 cases.
According to Oregon’s Statesman Journal, the move shut down 257 of Oregon’s state parks. While the state’s beaches will be technically open, all public access will be shut down as the state moves to slow the spread of infection.
From Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife:
OLYMPIA – The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) today announced its decision to temporarily close recreational fishing and shellfishing statewide in the wake of Washington Gov. Jay Inslee’s order directing Washingtonians to stay home and stay healthy to limit the spread of coronavirus/COVID-19.
The closures will begin at midnight Wednesday, March 25 and last until at least 5 p.m. on April 8, 2020. WDFW will re-evaluate on April 6 whether the closure may need to be extended.
“This is not a decision we take lightly, but it’s the right thing to do for the health and well-being of Washington’s families,” said WDFW Director Kelly Susewind. “Monday’s extraordinary order for the residents of our state to stay home requires all of us to work together to ensure these measures have the intended effect.”
Fishery managers have reported that some anglers have been seen crowding banks as concerns over coronavirus have continued.
“We’ve seen an uptick in outdoor recreation at some locations in recent weeks as people have looked for ways to get outside,” said WDFW Fish Program Director Kelly Cunningham. “We’ve had reports of crowded boat ramps and busy fishing on some rivers, which runs counter to the governor’s direction to stay home and practice social distancing.”
In addition, many salmon and steelhead fisheries require regular monitoring under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), which includes conducting angler interviews at access sites surrounding the state’s marine waters. The on-site, face-to-face nature of angler interviews puts people at potential risk of transmitting the coronavirus. Without such monitoring, these recreational fisheries must close to ensure ESA protections.
WDFW and other state agencies previously closed all of their water access sites, including boat launches, and other public lands where people may gather. Local and tribal governments are taking similar actions across Washington.
WDFW Enforcement officers remain on duty and will be enforcing these new closures.
Featured image courtesy of Lael Paul Johnson (@flygyde)