The Chesapeake Bay states are now all under individual Stay at Home orders, with Washington, D.C. following Maryland, Virginia and Delaware’s COVID-19 pandemic precautions. What exactly the orders mean for various outdoor activities has been tricky to pin down.
The state of Maryland went far enough to specifically forbid recreational boating, prompting questions about what counts as recreational, what falls under the allowance for exercise, and whether fishing counts as an essential food-gathering activity.
Tuesday afternoon the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) weighed in with a Frequently Asked Questions document to help boaters, anglers, hunters and paddlers to understand exactly what’s allowed. DNR cautions, the following is current guidance and subject to change.
In Maryland, recreational boating is “prohibited until the governor lifts the executive order or until the State of Emergency has ended.” But, DNR notes, if you are boating to seek food for you or their family, boating is permitted.
“Boats used to transport essential employees or goods as defined in the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency’s Guidance on the Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce” are also allowed. Individuals who live on their boats can remain on the vessel.
Limited fishing, crabbing and hunting are allowed if you are seeking food for you or your family, “but the social distancing guidelines and the prohibition on social gatherings must be strictly followed.” Charter boats may still operate as part of the food supply chain, but may not have more than ten people on board at any time.
Fishing in state parks is allowed under the stay-at-home order as long as the individual park is open (DNR recommends checking this site before you go) and you choose a park closest to home to limit your travel.
As for the question of kayaking and paddleboarding, DNR says:
“Since kayaking and paddle boarding are a form of exercise, they are permitted under the executive order.” Again, social distancing rules are in effect.
What about marinas, now that recreational boating isn’t allowed? Certain marine trades and marine services are considered essential by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA). Those included in the state executive order include “companies engaged in the… distribution, and sale of oil, gas, and propane products” and those that “supply parts, or provide maintenance and repair services for transportation assets and infrastructure including… marine vessels.”
Read DNR’s full document here.
In Virginia, the stay-at-home order does not forbid boating, though the state’s Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF) asks that people follow social distancing guidelines while boating, fishing, or fishing from a boat–and that includes staying six feet from the other folks on your boat.
Paige Pearson, DGIF spokesperson, tells Bay Bulletin, “Don’t tie up together, don’t go to any islands or sandbars. Stay away from people as much as you can and be cognizant of your surroundings. As for shore fishing, we ask you to maintain the 6′ distance between fisherman and women.”
Pearson points boaters to Governor Ralph Northam’s executive orders, encouraging everyone to become familiar with them. As for water access, she tells us that DGIF is “going case by case for access points and don’t anticipate closing all points at this time.”
If the agency does close any, it will be because they are “way overcrowded,” Pearson says, and the social distancing order isn’t being followed. “Our priority is keeping everyone safe while enjoying the outdoors.”
-Meg Walburn Viviano