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Sportfishing given green light in NS

Gone fishing: Sportfishing given green light as N.S. eases restrictions around some recreational activities

One of the most asked questions of the past week when it comes to recreational activities in Nova Scotia has been answered – yes, you can fish.

The province announced an easing of some public health restrictions as they pertain to recreational activities on Friday, May 1. Under this easing sportfishing is now allowed.

“Sportfishing is permitted from shore or boat, but fishing derbies are not allowed,” the province announced May 1.

The sportfishing season was to have opened on April 1 but on March 27 the province announced the season opening was “on hold until at least May 1.”

There had been no word about the status of the season leading up to May 1 – including the day before – but on Friday morning, May 1, there were plenty of phone calls being made to Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture staff and offices asking if fishing was a go. Some people reported being told in the morning that they could go fishing, even though there had been no official word yet come from the province.

The easing of restrictions, including for sportfishing, were announced collectively during the province’s May 1 provincial COVID-19 briefing at 3 p.m. They are effective immediately.

When it comes to sportfishing, the province’s chief medical officer Dr. Robert Strang said people still must social distance while in boats and on the shore. And if people are fishing together in boats Strang said it has to be people within a household – “people they’re already living with,” he said.

People are also asked not to drive long distances to go fishing.

“People are also encouraged to do this within their local area and limit their driving,” said Strang.

Sportfishing is a very popular activity. The province says in 2019 about 65,000 resident and non-resident anglers took part in sportfishing, which generated more than $66 million annually in communities throughout the province.

With the easing of recreational restrictions Strang and Premier Stephen McNeil said people will still need to use common sense. Don’t drive too far. Don’t gather in large groups. Don’t let your guard down. Practice good hygiene by washing hands, etc. And the list goes on.

“We know that getting outdoors for recreation is important for people’s physical and mental health,” said Premier McNeil. “That’s why we are easing some restrictions, while still keeping the majority of our public health directives in place to continue fighting the (Corona) virus. But I need to be clear: if we see an increase in positive cases or people not continuing to adhere to all the public health measures, the restrictions will return.”

But the premier also said, “we need to know it can work before we do more.”

Don’t look for loopholes, he said, and don’t bend the rules.

He said the last thing the province wants to see happen is a relapse in cases. And, he said, health-care workers still need to be protected. As people are going outside, he reminded the public, those workers are going inside to care for Nova Scotians.

The easing of restrictions announced on May 1, which the province calls initial steps, include:

  • provincial and municipal parks can reopen, but playground equipment will continue to be off limits (the province says it is too difficult to sanitize playground equipment)
  • trails are allowed to open
  • people are allowed to use and visit community gardens
  • garden centres, nurseries and similar businesses can open
  • sportfishing is permitted from shore or boat, but fishing derbies are not allowed
  • people can attend boating, yacht or sailing clubs for the purpose of preparing boats for use
  • golf driving ranges can open, including those at golf clubs, but the course must remain closed; golf clubs can perform necessary maintenance and preparations for opening
  • people can use their cottages. Use is restricted to one household unit at a time, travel must be directly to the cottage and back, and
  • travelling back and forth frequently from cottage and primary residence is discouraged.
  • provincial and private campgrounds remain closed, but they can perform necessary maintenance and preparations for opening. An exception is recreational vehicles parked year-round at private campgrounds, which can be used but must follow the same rules as cottages.
  • drive-in religious services will be allowed, as long as people stay in their cars, they are parked two metres apart and there are no interactions between people in cars or between people in cars and others