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Safe Fishers, Safe Fisheries

Resources for Columbia River Tribal Fishers During COVID

As tribal fishers prepare for the fall salmon fishery this year, they also have to deal with a global pandemic that has affected fisheries and fish demand throughout the entire world.

Fishers will be coming into contact with a variety of people, so it is important to take precautions to avoid spreading the virus at the fishing access sites, bringing it to the river if traveling from the reservations, or bringing it back to the reservations from the river. Also, by taking precautions, the public perception of the safety of the fish offered for sale will be improved, as well.

Below are some guidelines and recommendations to keep safe and avoid the spread of COVID-19 while fishing and selling your catch directly to the public or to wholesale dealers. 


Preparing for the Fishery

The tribes’ goal is to keep COVID from spreading along the river and at the reservations. Fishers play a part in this effort by making sure they are traveling to the river COVID-free and taking precautions to avoid catching it on the river and bringing it back to the reservations.

The time to start preparing for a safe fishery is right now

1 to 2 Weeks Before Heading to the River

Start strict social distancing right now:

  • No get-togethers with people outside immediate household
  • Wear a mask when around people not in your immediate family
  • Avoid crowded locations and keep grocery shopping and other essential trips to a minimum
  • Regularly wash hands

5 to 7 Days Before Heading to the River

  • Get a free COVID test through your tribal clinic
  • Keep up maintaining strict social distancing efforts

1 to 2 Days Before Heading to the River

  • Keep up maintaining strict social distancing efforts
  • Fishing crews: if all crew members have kept strict distancing, AFTER 2 weeks, they can create a “bubble” to safely interact with each other

Heading to the River

  • Do a final health check before you leave; if you have symptoms including cough, aches, sore throat, or fatigue, please sit out this fishery opening
  • Before leaving, pack fishing supplies including food and fill fuel tank to avoid having to stop along the way
  • If possible, make it a day trip and don’t make any non-essential stops to minimize contact with those outside your household

At the River

  • Wear a mask whenever around others
  • Access sites have added portable toilets and handwash stations for added hygiene
  • Carry hand sanitizer and regularly use it
  • Pick a camping spot with enough room from neighbors to be able to socially distance
  • If your usual site is always crowded, consider a less crowded one


Safe Fishing Resources

Fisher Safety

  • Regularly wash your hands with soap and water or hand sanitizer.
  • Cover sneezes and coughs with your arm or a cloth, not your hand.
  • Wear a mask when around others who are not in your immediate household.
  • Stay home if you are sick or have been exposed to COVID-19.
  • Don’t touch your face.
  • Try to bring all supplies you need with you and fill your gas tank at home to minimize stops at shops to minimize exposure to others
  • Keep a 6-foot minimum distance between boats and when parking or launching your vessel
  • Only one group at fish cleaning stations at a time. Wait until the previous group is finished to use a station, even if one side is not being used
  • When you return home, put your clothing directly in the wash and take a cleansing shower or bath, especially if you have interacted with others outside your immediate household. Don’t forget to disinfect your rig and tote, too
  • If possible, keep boat crew to members of own household or a crew “bubble”

Selling to Wholesale Dealers

  • Wholesale dealers and processors may change from their normal practices to address COVID risks. Keep in contact with your buyers for any updates on their plans and procedures. Expect to see modified procedures such as limits on the number of people in the buying area, an emphasis on sanitizing totes, and a touchless transaction process. If there is a line, maintain 6-foot distance when waiting your turn at wholesale buyer locations.
  • Keep masked when dealing with buyers.
  • Maintain a six-foot distance when talking to buyers.
  • Try to avoid lines and crowds at buying stations.
  • Wash hands or use hand sanitizer regularly.

Selling Directly to the Public

  • Keep masked when dealing with customers
  • Use hand sanitizer regularly and between customers
  • Maintain a six-foot distance when talking to customers
  • Create a touchless protocol to get fish to your customer. For example, placing the fish on a table or tailgate and stepping away for the customer to get it.
  • If you have a smart phone, consider using a mobile payment system like Venmo, Cash App, PayPal, or Square to create a touchless transaction system.
  • Cash is a potential spread vector. If you do accept cash, use hand sanitizer after handling the money.
  • Offer hand sanitizer for customers
  • Encourage customers to maintain 6-foot distance from each other if a line develops.

What Over-the-bank Customers Are Being Told to Encourage Safe Transactions

Over-the-bank sales are being announced on social media, print and radio, and other outlets. The general public is being told to expect fishers to have stricter protocols to ensure their own safety and the safety of the customers. They will be given the following guidance to use when buying from tribal fishers:

  • Wear a mask.
  • Use a credit card to pay if possible.
  • Learn more about the community you’re buying from. COVID doesn’t affect all groups and ages the same way and if you don’t feel it is a potential threat to you personally, it is a major threat to the tribal community, particularly tribal elders.
  • Thank you for supporting tribal fishers by enjoying Indian-caught salmon, but also please support them by helping keep COVID from spreading into our vulnerable population.



COVID Testing for Tribal Members

One Community Health has partnered with CRITFC to provide COVID-related health services to tribal members along the Columbia River. Members of the Yakama, Umatilla, Warm Springs, and Nez Perce tribes can call (541) 256-4345 to make an appointment to get a free COVID test or to get COVID health information.

One Community Health will be conducting COVID testing events on the following schedule:

  • Thursday, 9/17: Celilo Village, 10am to 2pm;
  • Thursday, 10/15: Wyeth, 10am to 2pm;
  • Thursday, 10/22: Lone Pine, 10am to 2pm;

These events are open to all Native Americans, whether they are experiencing symptoms or not and the testing is free.

White Swan Ambulance will be conducting on-site testing at the following schedule for the week of September 13 – 19:

  • Monday, 9/14: Celilo TFAS, 10am to 3pm (Cancelled due to smoke conditions)
  • Tuesday, 9/15: Lone Pine TFAS, 10am to 3pm (Cancelled due to smoke conditions)
  • Wednesday, 9/16: Wyeth TFAS, 10am to 3pm
  • Thursday, 9/17: Celilo Village, 10am to 2pm; Bingen TFAS, 10am to 1pm; Maryhill TFAS, 1:30pm to 3pm

Pre-registration is highly recommended as it speeds up the testing process and provides a time slot to avoid waiting at the event. Click here to go to the pre-registration form on the One Community Health website. You may also call (541) 256-4345 to make your appointment or to get help with transportation to the event.


Watch here or look for a text notification for future testing events as they are scheduled. To register for the CRITFC text alert system, text “critfc” to (855) 579-1288​.

COVID19 and Fisheries

The COVID19 pandemic has severely impacted seafood markets all over the world. With restaurants closed and export markets shut down, the demand (and market price) of fish has gone down significantly. Below are some links and resources to help answer questions commercial fishers might have, as well as extra precautions and steps to take to ensure the safety of your catch.

Below are links to resources. New sites will be added as they are made available:

Additional Resources

CRITFC Public Affairs.

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