States move to protect anglers

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Connecticut and Massachusetts made some decisions relating to fishing and COVID-19 last week to preserve fishing yet keep their State and the fishing community safe. Many feel that fishing (fresh or saltwater) is one activity that citizens might be able to engage while maintaining social distancing that would reinvigorate anglers and families bringing them outdoors in wide open spaces with clean fresh air and great family exercise and fun.

At press time in Rhode Island, we are still in the thick of a stay-a-home order, a five or more person gathering ban and a non-critical retail store closure. We have not heard Rhode Island’s disposition on Opening Day of the trout and freshwater season on Saturday, April 11.

I for one am putting my fishing fate in the hands of Governor Gina Raimondo and Janet Coit, director of the Department of Environmental Management (DEM). They have done a good job keeping Rhode Islanders safe and in these times it is all about us sticking together and following our proactive leaders to keep safe. The Director has said that Opening Day will occur but what is not clear is will we be able to fish if social distancing is practiced on shore and will parking facilities be open? However, with a stay-at-home order it may be a moot point.

Last week Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont issued an executive order opening fishing at Connecticut lakes, ponds, river and steams to fishing statewide early. The intention of opening the fishing season early was to limit the community spread of COVID-19 by eliminating the large crowds that often accompany the traditional Opening Day of fishing in April.

In a press advisory Connecticut DEEP said, “During this time of social distancing, fishing should be enjoyed as solitary experience or with members of the immediate household, not as a group activity.

DEEP is encouraging all anglers to follow social distancing practices. Anglers should maintain a distance of at least six feet from others,”

However, on the west coast the State of Washington announced last week that it was shutting down all fresh and saltwater fishing in state including recreational shellfishing. The temporary closure of all state-managed parks, wildlife areas, and water access areas started March 25 and will last for at least two weeks. The closure is in response to Gov. Inslee’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order issued last week.

In Massachusetts the Department of Fish and Game (DFG) office and fish hatchery are closed, however wildlife management areas, boat ramps and fishing areas overseen by the DFG Office of Fishing and Boating Access remain open to the public for general use. Spring trout stocking is continuing, however, tournaments and events are prohibited until at least April 7.

Also last week the Massachusetts Division of Marnie Fisheries (DMF) issued an advisory relating to rumors and a fabricated Facebook post, appearing to come from DMF, that state commercial and recreational fishing have been closed due to the Covid-19 public emergency. DMF’s advisory said, “This is not true! Commercial and recreational fishing remain open in Massachusetts.” All official notifications can be found on their website at https://www.mass.gov/orgs/division-of-marine-fisheries? Stimulus package to support fisheries

Last week President Trump signed a $2 trillion third stimulus package that will provide significant financial relief to small businesses, including those in the fishing and seafood industries that have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The legislation also included $300 million specifically to assist workers in fisheries and aquaculture-related jobs who have been affected by loss of income.

Capt. Rick Bellavance, president of the Rhode Island Party & Charter Boat Association said, “Our charter boats have not been able to fish. We hope our members will take advance of the small business relief available as well as some of the $300,000 million earmarked for fishing. Our hope is all will be out on the water fishing shortly as there is nothing like being out on the water in wide open spaces breathing fresh ocean air.” Eat local seafood, support fishermen

The Department of Environmental Management (DEM) met last week will fishermen and fishing industry leaders to support local fishermen, particularly in this COVID-19 environment. DEM is engaged in an effort to bolster the sale of fresh, nutritious fish that is landed right hear in Rhode Island.

The effort includes reaching out the restaurants serving take out and asking if they need access to RI seafood as well as connecting with wholesalers and seafood retailers to provide access to RI landed seafood. Look for the Rhode Island Seafood Seal on fish and at fish retailers and restaurants, as it certifies that the seafood has been landed right here in Rhode Island.

For information visit www.seafoodri.com, contact Natalie Ameral at natalie.ameral@dem.ri.gov or Bob Ballou at robert.ballou@dem.ri.gov.

Slow vessel speed for right whales

NOAA Fisheries announces the extension of the voluntary vessel speed restriction zone (Dynamic Management Area or DMA) east of Boston until April 7, 2020.

This extension is based on a March 23, 2020, sighting of an aggregation of right whales from a Boston-area beach by private citizens.

There are currently three voluntary slow speed zones in place to protect right whales. Mariners, please go around these areas or go slow (10 knots or less) inside these areas where groups of right whales have been sighted.

A mandatory speed restriction of 10 knots or less (rule 50 CFR 224.105) is in effect in the Mid-Atlantic, November 1-April 30; Cape Cod Bay, January 1-May 15; and off Race Point, March 1-April 30. Where’s the bite?

Boat ramps. State, town and private boat ramps are open for the most part, however, at press time (as noted above) we have a stay-at-home order, a non-critical retailer store closure, so check travel restrictions and what ramps are open if we are given the green light to fish. The use of boat ramps is essential to marine businesses and commercial fin and shellfishers.

Freshwater and saltwater fishing. At press time, if you do not have to travel in a vehicle to fish, and you are obeying all other emergency COVID-19 orders I suppose you can fish recreationally. I have chosen to stay at home for now. Also important to note that commercial fishing is allowed with businesses that service the commercial fishing industry deemed essential remain open. When stay-at-home orders are lifted I hope to be out fishing as there is nothing better than to be on the water, in wide open spaces, breathing fresh clean air.

Dave Monti is a charter captain, member of the American Saltwater Guides Association, RISAA, RIPCBA, serves as vice chair of the RIMFC and is a marketing communications practitioner. Forward fishing news & photos to dmontifish@verizon.net, visit www.noflukefishing.com or www.noflukefishing.blogspot.com.

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