Commission against hunting, fishing cuts to fight covid-19
April 9, 2020
Wahkiakum County commissioners aren't ready to recommend a halt on recreational hunting and fishing, the board said on Tuesday.
The Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife wants to know, said Chris Bischoff, director of Wahkiakum County Health and Human Services reported to commissioners at their weekly meeting. WDFW is gathering input on the idea from county health officers, he said, adding that he wanted to know the commissioners' feelings before responding.
Halts or restrictions of hunting and fishing would be part of the continued effort to prevent the spread of the covid-19 virus, Bischoff said.
Based on past experience with other viruses, the pandemic will hit in three waves. The world is experiencing the first now, he said. The second will arrive several months later, probably in time for fall hunting seasons, he said, and it will have a massive impact. The following third wave would have a much smaller impact.
Closing seasons would be one way of softening the impact of the second wave, he said.
"What are your thoughts," he asked the commissioners.
Commissioners Dan Cothren and Gene Strong rejected the idea of closing fishing and hunting seasons.
Their immediate reaction was to suggest that only Wahkiakum County residents could hunt or fish in the county.
Bischoff pointed out that such a restriction could be hard to enforce. People coming into the area could bring the virus with them, leaving it where ever they stopped on their journey, and others would take it away with them when they returned home.
Commissioner Mike Backman agreed.
"It would be impossible to enforce," he said, "so don't do it. If we all have to suffer by staying home, then chin up, let's do it."
Cothren said hunting and fishing are important economically and socially. People hunt and fish for food, especially residents of rural areas. People also need jobs for income.
"I'll take the sickness over not having a job," he said. "I'm not going to sit around and live on subsidies; I'm not that person.
"I couldn't back this right now."
Strong said he agreed with Cothren.
"I think it's too early to make a final decision on this," he said. "A lot of people in rural areas rely on fishing and hunting."
"Your need to realize there will a lot more poaching," Cothren added.
Bischoff said he would relay the input to WDFW, and the board could consider the situation in another six months.
In other business Tuesday, Public Works Director Chuck Beyer explained that limited operating hours for the ferry Oscar B. were part of an effort to limit exposure of the crew to the covid-19 virus.
Beyer last week ordered hours of operation reduced to 5-9:30 a.m. and 3:30-8:30 p.m.
The hours were set to serve the commute of workers to the Wauna paper mill, he said, adding that they're considered essential workers under state guidelines identifying essential work. A couple extra hours were included to give people a chance to go to medical or other appointments.
Beyer consulted with the ferry crews and county commission before making the decision.
"I talked to each county commissioner separately," Beyer said. "We want to limit our crews' risk of contagion.
"If all the crew goes down with covid, the ferry won't run at all."