Washington bans recreational fishing, shellfishing to slow coronavirus spread

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Residents of Washington state won’t even be able to practice social “fishtancing” amid the coronavirus outbreak.

This week, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) issued a temporary order to close all recreational fishing and shellfishing in the entire state in order to further prevent the spread of COVID-19.

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The news came shortly after Gov. Jay Inslee issued a “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order, which required Washington residents to stay home unless out for an “essential activity.”

“We’ve seen an uptick in outdoor recreation at some locations in recent weeks as people have looked for ways to get outside,” WDFW Fish Program director Kelly Cunningham said in a news release issued Wednesday. “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.”

“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, 

“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,  (iStock)

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WDFW’s ban went into effect at midnight on March 25. As part of the restrictions, fishing and shellfishing seasons will be closed for at least two weeks. Access to wildlife areas and water access areas will also be restricted for that same time period.

Similarly, the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission has temporarily closed all state-managed wildlife areas or water access points for two weeks.

Hunting seasons, meanwhile, are currently “not impacted” by any restrictions, WDFW confirmed.

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“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,” added WDFW director Kelly Susewind, per the news release. “[The governor’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.”

WDFW says officers will remain on duty to enforce the ban over the next few weeks.

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Meanwhile, Michigan’s Fish, Wildlife and Parks Department is recommending that sportsmen practice social “fishtancing,” urging that they stay six feet apart — or, in their words, “4 trout” or “2 shovelnose sturgeon” apart.