RICHLAND, Wash. (AP) — Protesters in boats and on shore Saturday demanded that restrictions on recreational fishing and shellfish harvesting in Washington because of the coronavirus be lifted.
About 50 boats along with several hundred protesters on shore gathered on Saturday around Columbia Point Marina in Richland in southwestern Washington.
The state Department of Fish and Wildlife on March 25 temporarily closed recreational fishing and shellfish harvesting to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
But the protesters say the restrictions should be lifted because anglers can practice social distancing while fishing. They said kayakers, jet skis, wake boarders, pleasure boaters and others are on the water.
“There’s nobody but us two out in the middle of the river,” Alan Doughty told the Tri-City Herald. He was on their boat in the Columbia River with Pam Doughty and their two dogs. "We’ve got a $60,000 boat. We have I don’t know how much in gear. We’ve got a fishing license. We’ve got insurance, and we can’t use it,”
Ben Hanes organized the protest after noticing non-fishing boaters on the water and believed the restrictions on fishing were unfair.
“The anglers of Washington state aren’t going to put up with (the ban) much longer,” he said.
Al Bernicker, 74, regularly comes to Columbia Point to fish. This time he brought a sign that said, “I can sit here. Why not fish here. I am 6-feet apart.”
Washington has at least 11,735 virus cases and 611 deaths, according to a Johns Hopkins University tally on Saturday afternoon.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, that clear up in two to three weeks. But it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death for some people, especially older adults and people with pre-existing health problems.