Looking to discourage weekend travel, Oregon closed recreational hunting, fishing, crabbing and clamming to people from out of state and again urged residents to stay close to home when outside to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
The new restrictions — in effect at 11:59 p.m. on Friday night — came after appeals from leaders on the coast and others concerned about the potential impact visitors could have on local medical and emergency services.
Washington state closed fishing and hunting to residents and visitors until May 4, which Oregon fishery managers believe contributed to a bump in out-of-state clam diggers at North Coast beaches last weekend.
Recreational fishing for salmon and steelhead on the Columbia River is closed, but other seasons remain open.
Gov. Kate Brown issued a stay-at-home order in March to help control the virus. But many people have traveled to the coast and other popular recreational destinations, loosely interpreting the state’s guidance to stay close to home when they go outside to hunt, fish, walk or bike.
“Some have asked us to close seasons to reduce travel,” Curt Melcher, the director of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, said in a statement. “We would like to keep seasons open to give locals an outlet during this difficult time, but that doesn’t mean it’s OK to travel to these communities.”
The state will refund spring bear and spring turkey tags to people from out of state, but anticipates that others who have already purchased 2020 licenses to hunt, fish or shellfish will have other opportunities to do so later in the year.
The state continues to urge people to stay home.
“Stick close to home and fish at your local lake, pond or river and do not go crabbing or clamming unless you live on the coast, and then only to places where access is still open,” Melcher said.
Many coastal communities have restricted access, however.
Seaside has closed its beach. Clatsop County announced Thursday it would shut newly-installed gates at beach accesses at Sunset Beach and Del Rey Beach for the weekend.
Beaches north of Seaside remain open to people who want to take a walk, county officials noted.
“The closure is to discourage visitors from coming to Clatsop County and local communities,” a notice from the county stated.
Officials urge residents to respect Brown’s stay-at-home order and follow social distancing guidelines when outside.
“Large numbers of visitors crowding beaches and beach towns will result in further restrictions on public beach use,” the county warned.
Access to the beach is also already limited due to the closure of state parks, including popular beachfront parks like Fort Stevens State Park in Warrenton and Oswald West south of Cannon Beach.
“Right now, my opinion is that we’re trying to approach all of these issues with some moderation,” said Kathleen Sullivan, the chairwoman of the Clatsop County Board of Commissioners. “Hopefully, people will understand their own individual responsibility.”
County leadership echoes the state in urging people to recreate close to home, but Sullivan said she recognizes the inherent difficulty in trying to restrict people’s actions.
“It’s a tough question,” she said. “How do you enforce something that’s real draconian? My approach is that you try to do the best you can with education first. I think that this ruling (by fish and wildlife) will be helpful.”
It also gives leeway to locals, she added. The county heard feedback from residents that it was important for them to be able to get out on the beach and pursue traditional activities like clamming.
Fishery managers told The Astorian most people seem to be following social distancing guidelines on the beach, though changes to access have inadvertently created some bottleneck situations as people go from their cars to the sand.