State officials close fishing, shellfish harvesting

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) on March 25 announced the closure of recreational fishing and shellfishing statewide in the wake of Gov. Jay Inslee’s order directing Washingtonians to “stay home and stay healthy” to limit the spread of novel coronavirus.

The closures began at midnight Wednesday, March 25, and last until at least 5 p.m. on April 8.

State officials will re-evaluate on April 6 whether the closure may need to be extended, WDFW representatives said.

“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,” WDFW Director Kelly Susewind said in a press statement on March 25.

“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 report that some anglers have been seen crowding banks as concerns over COVID-19 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,” WDFW Fish Program Director Kelly Cunningham said.

“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.”

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, state officials noted.

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 will remain on duty and enforce these new closures, WDFW officials said.

The lowland lakes opening day for trout remains scheduled for April 25, but will be evaluated depending on whether the governor’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order might be further extended.

For the latest updates on WDFW’s coronavirus response, visit wdfw.wa.gov/about/covid-19-updates. Updates to openings and closures will be posted to that page.

For the latest information on the statewide response to this pandemic, visit coronavirus.wa.gov.

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