What’s at Stake
Anglers have a long history of making sacrifices for the betterment of nature. These accommodations have sometimes included targeted closures where the science has clearly indicated they are essential solutions to protect fish and sensitive habitats.
Over the past several weeks, rather than focusing on the health of our ecosystems, the science directing our behaviours has been concentrated on our own health. Experts have deemed it necessary to limit the movement of Canadians across the country, closing parks, businesses, boat ramps, and limiting gatherings. Such is life during Covid-19.
Not only have Canadians been faced with the uncertainty of a novel coronavirus, we have also been met with financial and emotional hardships. Our inability to gather with friends and loved ones has sparked mental health concerns. As well, closed businesses have led to worries about the future of the fishing industry.
Health and Safety
The restrictions placed on Canadians have not made it easy to cast a line. Nevertheless, KCF Champions of Recreational Fishing report that most anglers are following the guidelines put out by local and provincial governments. Ongoing concern for the health and safety of fellow Canadians has influenced the behaviour of anglers.
According to Gord Pyzer, his small town of Kenora receives 750,000 visitors (many anglers) every year. Considering the hospital serving the area only has 4 ICU beds, local healthcare would be critically strained should an outbreak occur.
The Original Social Distancing
Even so, Canadians see fishing as a healthy and easy way to practice social distancing. “Many anglers fish in secluded areas where [they] rarely see another boat on the water,” says David Reid.
Fishing has always been an easy and affordable way of escaping every-day life. Jason Barnucz points out that “angling easily meets public health directives pertaining to COVID-19.” It is one of the few ways for Canadians to practice social distancing while still enjoying an engaging and productive activity.
However, it’s essential that all anglers follow social distancing and other public health directives. These rules are evolving constantly. Due to the uncertainty the virus presents, it’s important to stay updated on the latest recommendations and restrictions. For instance, The Matity brothers report that in Saskatchewan, anglers are only allowed to have members of their household in the same boat. This may change in the future.
“I am confident the vast majority of anglers will follow the guidelines,” says Barnucz. “I worry the minority of anglers that do not follow the guidelines will set the tone for agencies to continue with these closures/restrictions.”
In other words, let’s be safe, practice responsible angling, and keep ourselves and others healthy.
Keep Canada Fishing has created a Code of Conduct for anglers fishing during the pandemic. The list of 10 guidelines is a great starting point for Canadians who want to cast a line this summer, and practice social distancing in the best way possible — by fishing.
A Light at the End of the Tunnel
There are other reasons to be optimistic. Fishing is an ecologically sound method of putting healthy food on the table. It is also a crucial part of the Canadian economy. During the Covid-19 pandemic, fishing offers an escape from the constant barrage of ever-changing information and worries.
Looking to our American neighbours, the numbers are inspiring. Licence and tackle sales are up in many states. According to Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency Chief of Outreach and Communications Jennifer Wisniewski, “Before COVID-19, people would go out to eat, go to the mall, to kids ballgames and pro ballgames, you name it. All of those things aren’t happening, and what else is there to do?”
This is small consolation for those in the fishing industry who rely on tourism. Many fishing lodges and charter companies are having to cancel bookings. Small retailers and “mom and pop” shops are also particularly hard-hit.
However, our initial research suggests there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Campaigns to “shop local,” paired with government support and subsidies, are going a long way to protect the future of the recreational fishing industry.
Keep Canada Fishing will continue to support the angling industry as we move forward with this new normal. We are not staying idle during this crisis. With input from our Government Affairs Committee, we are in constant communication with local and national agencies, as well as government bodies and officials.
As always, we encourage Canadians to practice “responsible recreation” and to Keep Canada Fishing. When it comes to our well-being, some things will always be essential.
Do you plan on fishing more this year due to the pandemic? Let us know below or on social media!